Earlier this year, Business Traveller looked at the top ten busiest international routes in the world, of which eight were routes within Asia-Pacific, by looking at the total number of departing and arriving flights along those routes.
But while many carriers in Asia-Pacific have grown both regionally and internationally recently, for the majority of airlines their single busiest routes when it comes to actual passenger bookings are domestic.
So, what are each airline’s busiest routes, and how many bookings did they receive on those routes?
We took a look at industry analyst OAG’s report, the OAG Take-Off, which compiled data on flight bookings on the region’s airlines between June 2016 and June 2017, to see which routes airlines in Asia-Pacific see more bookings on than any other.*
Busiest route: Beijing (PEK)-Chengdu (CTU)
Average bookings per day: 5,073
Air China is arguably up against more domestic competition than any other national carrier in the world. As of February 2017, China was home to 48 different airlines with all primarily focused on the domestic market.
Perhaps surprisingly for the country’s flag carrier, its busiest route is not between Beijing and Shanghai (though only by a relatively small margin). Last year, Air China had some 1.85 million bookings on its Beijing-Chengdu route, with Beijing-Shenzhen being its third busiest.
ALL NIPPON AIRWAYS
Busiest route: Sapporo (CTS)-Tokyo (HND)
Average bookings per day: 7,516
For both of Japan’s main carriers, All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines, Sapporo-Tokyo and Fukuoka-Tokyo are major routes, and for ANA it is the former that just edges out ahead.
ANA had some 2.74 million bookings on its Sapporo-Tokyo service last year, followed by 2.57 million on its Fukuoka-Tokyo route.
Busiest route: Taipei (TPE)-Hong Kong (HKG)
Average bookings per day: 5,001
The busiest international route in all of Asia is between Hong Kong and Taipei, which last year saw some 29,494 flights depart and arrive on the route, according to another of OAG’s reports, its Punctuality League 2018.
It should be little surprise, then, that this is the busiest route for Hong Kong’s flag carrier also, with a total of 1.82 million passengers booked on the route last year – almost double that of its second-busiest route, Hong Kong-Singapore.
Busiest route: Beijing (PEK)-Shanghai (SHA)
Average bookings per day: 7,194
It is little surprise that Shanghai-based China Eastern’s busiest route when it comes to overall bookings is between Shanghai and the capital.
At 2.62 million bookings last year, the route has almost three-times the number of bookings as the airline’s Shanghai-Shenzhen route, its second-busiest route for bookings.
Busiest route: Guangzhou (CAN)-Beijing (PEK)
Average bookings per day: 4,736
China Southern has more seat capacity than any other airline in Asia-Pacific, with a total of more than 119 million seats available annually.
Unsurprisingly, the busiest routes connect with its home base in Guangzhou, with the Guangzhou-Beijing route having over 1.72 million bookings last year. Its route between nearby Shenzhen and Beijing also fares particularly well.
Busiest route: Jakarta (CGK)-Surabaya (SUB)
Average bookings per day: 2,733
Jakarta-Singapore may rank among the busiest international routes for Asia’s airlines when it comes to the overall number of flights that fly between the two cities, but it is only the third-busiest route for Indonesia’s flag carrier when it comes to overall bookings.
Last year, the carrier saw over 997,500 bookings on its domestic Jakarta-Surabaya route, almost exactly 200,000 more than its Jakarta-Singapore route.
Busiest route: Shenzhen (SZX)-Beijing (PEK)
Average bookings per day: 2,543
One of the fastest-growing carriers in China, Hainan Airlines opened up 46 new routes last year, many of which were international.
Despite this, the carrier’s bread and butter remains its domestic route between its two hubs in Shenzhen and Beijing, which last year saw more than 928,100 bookings in total.
Busiest route: Fukuoka (FUK)-Tokyo (HND)
Average bookings per day: 6,188
Like fellow Japanese carrier ANA, Japan Airlines’ two busiest routes are between Tokyo (Haneda) and Fukuoka and Sapporo. Unlike ANA, however, Japan Airline sees more bookings on its Fukuoka route than the Sapporo route, with over 2.25 million last year.
Besides these two routes, Japan Airlines also has significant bookings on its flights between Tokyo (Haneda) and Naha in Okinawa.
Busiest route: Delhi (DEL)-Mumbai (BOM)
Average bookings per day: 3,340
Indian carrier Jet Airways’ two busiest hubs are, unsurprisingly, at Mumbai and Delhi with more than 40 routes (mostly domestic) serving each of the two airports individually.
Between the two cities themselves, Jet Airways had 1.21 million bookings last year about double the number it had on its next busiest routes.
Busiest route: Jeju (CGU)-Seoul (GMP)
Average bookings per day: 8,203
Despite having ten times the number of routes at Seoul’s main Incheon Airport than at the city’s secondary Gimpo Airport, it is between Jeju and Gimpo, not Incheon, that Korean Air the highest number of bookings. In fact, none of the airline’s top three routes for bookings flies into or out of Incheon.
Korean Air had 2.99 million bookings last year on its Jeju-Seoul (Gimpo) route, more than three times that of its second highest route for bookings, Busan-Seoul (Gimpo).
Busiest route: Sydney (SYD)-Melbourne (MEL)
Average bookings per day: 8,458
Qantas’s Sydney-Melbourne route had the most bookings of any other carrier on this list last year, with more than 3.08 million bookings on the route alone. With Qantas having carried a total of 31.8 million passengers in total last year, according to OAG, the route accounts for almost 10 per cent of the airline’s passengers.
This route is followed by Sydney-Brisbane and Melbourne-Brisbane.
Busiest route: Xian (XIY)-Shenzhen (SZX)
Average bookings per day: 1,579
Shenzhen Airlines has the fourth-highest capacity of any airline in mainland China, with over 36 million seats annually. However, unlike all the other Chinese carriers on this list, the route that Shenzhen Airlines saw the most number of bookings last year wasn’t to either Beijing or Shanghai.
Rather, the route with the highest number of bookings was Xian-Shenzhen, with over 576,500 passenger bookings on the route last year, followed by Shenzhen-Wuxi and Shenzhen-Beijing.
Busiest route: Hanoi (HAN)-Ho Chi Minh City (SGN)
Average bookings per day: 8,424
Vietnam Airlines has the second-busiest route on this list when it comes to overall passenger bookings, with more than 3.07 million on its main Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh City route last year alone.
Despite this big domestic numbers, Vietnam Airlines is also growing quickly internationally, a result of renewed interest in the country especially from Europe.
Busiest route: Melbourne (MEL)-Sydney (SYD)
Average bookings per day: 5,716
Approximately 87 per cent of Virgin Australia’s capacity is found on routes within Australia, a market in which it has a market share of approximately 30 per cent.
It is therefore unsurprising that, as with rival Australian carrier Qantas, Virgin Australia’s busiest route for bookings is Melbourne-Sydney, on which it received some 2.08 million bookings last year. And, as with Qantas, its second and third busiest were between Sydney and Brisbane, and Melbourne and Brisbane.
Busiest route: Shanghai (SHA)-Xiamen (XMN)
Average bookings per day: 1,806
China’s fifth-largest airline in terms of overall capacity, Xiamen Airlines has been growing steadily with North America in particular a fast-developing market for the carrier.
That said, its capacity remains largely on domestic routes, with its Shanghai-Xiamen route seeing more than 659,300 bookings last year, with Fuzhou-Beijing and Beijing-Xiamen close behind.
*Based on available information from the OAG Take-Off report