Tuesday 16 July 2019

Dublin to London is Europe's busiest air route, but which is the world's?

Air travel in 2018

Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Deposit
Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Deposit

Oliver Smith

What’s the busiest air route in the world? New York to Washington DC? London to Paris? LA to San Francisco?

The correct answer may surprise you.

The most crowded flight path on Earth, according to a new report by aviation analyst OAG, is actually the 280-mile hop from Seoul Gimpo to Jeju International.

There were a staggering 64,991 departures between these two airports in 2017 – that works out at around 178 a day.

Top 10 busiest domestic routes. Source: Telegraph Travel
Top 10 busiest domestic routes. Source: Telegraph Travel

Second on its list is Melbourne-Sydney, with 54,519, while third place goes to Mumbai-Delhi, with 47,462. In fact, all of the 10 busiest air routes are domestic services, with Cape Town-Johannesburg the longest at 789 miles.

“OTP” in the graphics above and below refers to the route’s “on-time performance”. 

The busiest international route is Hong Kong-Taipei, with 29,494 departures in 2017, followed by Kuala Lumpur-Singapore, with 29,383.

Europe’s busiest service, meanwhile, is Dublin-Heathrow, served by BA and Aer Lingus. All of the most crowded international route are, unsurprisingly, short, with Bangkok-Singapore the longest at 890 miles.

Top 10 busiest international routes. Source: Telegraph.co.uk
Top 10 busiest international routes. Source: Telegraph.co.uk

Why are so many people flying to Jeju?

More than 26 million passengers use Jeju International each year - that’s more than any UK airport bar Gatwick and Heathrow.

So what the devil is Jeju, and why are so many rushing to see it?

It’s actually the capital of an island, Jejudo, which might just be the most popular holiday destination you’ve never heard of.

JungMun in Jeju Island, South Korea. Photo: Deposit
JungMun in Jeju Island, South Korea. Photo: Deposit

Unesco-listed, and billed as South Korea’s answer to Hawaii, it's pure Instagram gold, and home to dramatic volcanic landscapes, underground caves, hiking trails and scenic beaches.

Halla Mountain, at 1,940m above sea level, is South Korea’s highest peak, while the cone of Seongsan Ilchulbong, or “Sunrise Peak”, is particularly spectacular.

In 2011 Jejudo was named among the “New7Wonders of Nature”, though there were accusations that its selection was down not just to its beauty, but also the readiness of tourism and marketing organisations to stump up cash – including taxpayers’ money – to support its campaign.

There are also casinos, which help lure travellers from China, and, thanks to the island’s self-governing status, anyone can visit without a visa.

Bizarrely, there’s also a sex-themed park, Jeju Love Land, which features phallus statues, interactive exhibits on the “masterbation cycle”, and other sculptures of humans in flagrante.

Love Land is said to owe its existence to Jejudo’s popularity as a honeymoon destination. Young newlyweds would arrive knowing next to nothing about the birds and the bees so some hotel employees offered to share their expertise. The island soon became an unofficial centre for sex education, making the theme park entirely logical.

But Jejudo also has a dark side. In 1948 and 1949, the South Korean government brutally put down an attempted uprising on the island. Villagers, including women and children, were massacred, and as recently as 2008 mass graves were still being uncovered.

Some 30,000 people died as a result of the uprising, with a further 40,000 fleeing to Japan, and the atrocities are remembered at the 4.3 Peace Park memorial.

Which is the world’s busiest airport?

It’s not quite as surprising as Jeju, but not far off. Nope, it’s not Heathrow, Beijing or even Dubai. The busiest on the planet is actually Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International – as it has been since 1998 (that's 19 years in a row).

More than 104 million passengers passing through its terminals in 2016 – that’s slightly more than the population of the Philippines.

The biggest airline at Atlanta, by some margin, is Delta. It operates 72.73 per cent of flights. And a remarkable 219 cities have non-stop services to it.

Read more:

2017 was the safest year in aviation history – but which was the deadliest?


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