Asia has world’s busiest skies; KL-Singapore route tops chart

Demand for air travel across Asia is spiralling, with 14 of the world’s 20 busiest air passenger routes departing from and arriving at an Asian airport

Asia has the world’s busiest skies, with Kuala Lumpur-Singapore (KUL-SIN) claiming the crown as the world’s busiest air passenger flight route and 14 of the top 20 operating to and from destinations in Asia, according to the latest annual findings by OAG.

The one-hour KUL-SIN connection between the two neighbouring capital cities in South-east Asia topped OAG’s top 20 busiest international routes rankings with 30,537 flights in the 12 months to February 2018.

Demand for air travel across Asia is spiralling, with 14 of the world’s 20 busiest air passenger routes departing from and arriving at an Asian airport

Hong Kong-Taipei (HKG-TPE, 28,887 flights) placed second, with Jakarta-Singapore (CGK-SIN, 23,704) third, Hong Kong-Shanghai Pudong (HKG-PVG, 21,888) fourth, and Jakarta-Kuala Lumpur (CGK-KUL, 19,849) completing an all-Asian top 5.

Mayur Patel, regional sales director JAPAC for OAG, said: “Given the robust expansion of air passenger travel across Asia-Pacific and the fierce competition between carriers in the region, it is unsurprising that 14 of the world’s busiest 20 routes, including eight of the top 10 routes, are between Asian city pairs. This compares to two routes within Europe, two routes in North America, plus one route between North America and Europe and one route between destinations in the Middle East.”

Key results for Asia Pacific from the OAG’s top 20 busiest international routes include:

  • 14 intra-Asian routes were ranked in the top 20 list, with eight being between cities in North Asia, four connecting cities in South-east Asia, and two city pairs bridging North Asia and South East Asia
  • Hong Kong (HKG) was the busiest Asian airport hub featuring in six of OAG’s top 20 list, with Singapore (SIG) featuring in four routes. Two airports, Kansai (KIX) and Seoul Incheon (ICN), featured in three routes.
  • Five Asian airports – Kuala Lumpur (KUL), Bangkok (BKK), Jakarta (CKG), Taipei (TPE) and Shanghai Pudong (PVG) – featured on two of the global top 20 routes. Beijing Capital (PEK) and Tokyo Narita (NRT) each featured on one route.
  • The highest on-time performance (OTP) among Asian routes in the global top 20 was KIX-TPE with 83%, followed by BKK-SIN (80%) and ICN-KIX (78%). The congested skies over mainland China, which cause frequent flight delays and cancellations, provide an explanation for the two lowest regional OTP ratings, which were for flights between Hong Kong and mainland Chinese airports: HKG-PEK (57%) and HKG-PVG (55%).

The increasingly competitive nature of Asian aviation markets is a stand-out feature of this year’s top 20 busiest international routes rankings, reflecting that some are still transitioning through a developmental stage.

All eight Asian routes in the top 10 busiest routes feature at least six competing airlines, with three routes (ICN-KIX, HKG-ICN and HKG-SIN) counting eight carriers, and nine airlines battling each other on the CKG-KUL route. The Osaka-Taipei (KIX-TPE) route, which placed 15th, tops them all with 11 airlines competing for passengers.

While this intense level of competition offers impressive flight frequencies and competitive prices for consumers, it adds pressure to the operating costs and on-time perfomance of carriers, and may prove unsustainable over time. By contrast, more mature European and North American routes, such Dublin-London Heathrow (DUB-LHR), which placed 14th, and Chicago-Toronto (ORD-YYZ), ranked 20th, each have only four competing airlines.

Another highlight feature is the relatively high ratio of LCCs on some of the busiest Asian routes. Five intra-Asian city pairs on the top 20 busiest international routes list count LCC penetration of more than 40%: KUL-SIN (43%), CGK-SIN (42%), CGL-KUL (47%), ICN-KIX (65%) and ICN-NRT (49%). Two Asian routes count between 30%-40% LCC penetration: BKK-SIN (31%) and KIX-TPE (30%). Three Asian routes, HKG-TPE, BKK-HKG and HKG-PEK, are 100% operated by mainline airlines, with zero LCC penetration, while HKG-PVG is 95% operated by mainline airlines.

OAG’s top 20 busiest international routes are calculated by analysing the jet aircraft frequencies on international flight routes in the 12 months to February 2018. These are the world’s busiest trunk routes in terms of the volume of flights that operate on them.

The full results and copy of the full report can be viewed here.


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