World's busiest flight routes during coronavirus: South Korea, China dominate list as airlines ground flights

The flight route between Sydney and Melbourne, regularly ranked one of busiest in the world, has disappeared from the top 10 busiest routes as travel restrictions reduce flights.

Data from shows how much the world's busiest flight routes have changed due to the outbreak and the corresponding reduction in flights.

Flights between major cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Cape Town and Johannesburg, all usually among the world's busiest, have disappeared from the rankings.

Prior to travel restrictions, the Sydney-Melbourne route would average about 4500 flights a month. FlightRadar24 data shows that over 30 day in mid-April to mid-May, there were just 391 flights on the route - a decline of 97 per cent.

In the past 30 days up to May 13, the data revealed the top 10 busiest air routes can now be found in just three countries: South Korea, China and Vietnam.

South Korea already laid claim to the world's busiest air route and that hasn't changed despite the downturn. Flights to and from Seoul, the country's capital, to the holiday island of Jeju are still at the top of the list, with 5720 flights over a 30 day period.

Jeju is considered the Hawaii of Korea and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Along with beaches, it's also renowned for its volcanic lava tubes and for Mount Halla - the highest mountain in Korea.

Although South Korean airlines did reduce domestic services due to COVID-19, three of the top 10 busiest routes are now in Korea, with Busan-Seoul and Busan-Jeju also climbing into the list.

Shanghai-Shenzhen was ranked second, one of six domestic China routes in the top 10. China started lifting domestic travel restrictions in April and some domestic flight routes are predicted to be back to full capacity this month.


Airlines continued flying between Vietnam's two major cities, Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, and put the route in third place. It had previously been sixth. Vietnam has largely been successful in containing COVID-19 after implementing strict measures early.

The only international route to typically appear in the top 10 most busiest is Hong Kong-Taipei, but with Taiwan's borders closed, it has disappeared from the list.

Data analytics OAG recently released their busiest flight routes for 2019, providing the rankings for a pre-coronavirus world.

Although Sydney-Melbourne still made the top 10, it dropped from second place to fifth in the rankings. The Australian route was the only one outside Asia to make the top 10.

International Air Transport Association (IATA) data showed flight demand dropped 52 per cent globally in March. Despite Asia continuing to dominate the busiest routes list, it was also the hardest hit region with demand down 60 per cent.

Data from analysts Cirium puts the number of grounded aircraft around the world currently at 16,100 - a total of 61 per cent of the world's passenger jets.

The aircraft are stored at 876 airports and facilities around the world, with the largest number, more than 350, at the Roswell International Air Centre in the US.

The world's top 10 busiest air routes during COVID-19

  1. Seoul-Jeju (South Korea)
  2. Shanghai-Shenzhen (China)
  3. Ho Chi Minh-Hanoi (Vietnam)
  4. Shenzhen-Chengdu (China)
  5. Guangzhou-Chengdu (China)
  6. Busan-Seoul (South Korea)
  7. Busan-Jeju (South Korea)
  8. Shenzhen-Chongqing (China)
  9. Shanghai-Guangzhou (China)
  10. Chongqing-Guangzhou (China)


Pre-COVID-19: The world's top 10 busiest air routes in 2019

  1. Seoul-Jeju (South Korea)
  2. Sappore-Tokyo (Japan)
  3. Fukuoka-Tokyo (Japan)
  4. Ho Chi Minh-Hanoi (Vietnam)
  5. Sydney-Melbourne (Australia)
  6. Mumbai-Delhi (India)
  7. Beijing-Shanghai (China)
  8. Jeddah-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia)
  9. Hong Kong-Taipei (Hong Kong-Taiwan)
  10. Tokyo-Okinawa (Japan)

Source: OAG

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