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World’s 10 Busiest Airline Routes — May 2021 Edition

After more than a year of COVID-19, the world's busiest airline routes look different. So we took a closer look and present the most up-to-date and comprehensive list of the 10 busiest airlines routes as of May 2021.

World’s 10 Busiest Airlines Routes

Corona hit airlines massively. Moreover, it changed the entire industry — at least temporarily. After more than a year of Corona, we wanted to know if and how the world has recovered. Therefore we took a look a the world’s busiest airline routes. Here’s an overview of what you will find on this blog post — in case you want to jump to a certain section directly:

List of the World’s 10 busiest Airline Routes

With more than 1.5 million seats, the route Jeju (CJU) to Seoul Gimpo (GMO) is currently the busiest airline route in the world. Moreover, it is (currently) the world’s only route with more than 1 million seats. Already Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City ranked second, is below 1 million seats (947,638). On rank three and four, we have routes to Shanghai Hongqiao with 769,405 and 667,668 seats. Finally, the route from Melbourne to Sydney is ranked fifth and represents the first non-Asian routes among the world’s 10 busiest airline routes.

On rank six and seven, we find routes to Tokyo Haneda with 653,882 and 627,210 seats. The route Jeddah to Riyadh is the only Middle East route among the top 10, with 547,936 seats.

Here’s the complete list of the world’s 10 busiest airline routes as of May 2021.

PositionFromIATAToIATASeats (Total)
1Jeju InternationalCJUSeoul GimpoGMO1,564,002
2HanoiHANHo Chi Minh CitySGN947,638
3BeijingPEKShanghai HongqiaoSHA769,405
4GuangzhouCANShanghai HongqiaoSHA667,668
6SapporoCTSTokyo HanedaHND653,882
7FukuokaFUKTokyo HanedaHND627,710
8Shanghai HongqiaoSHAShenzhenSZX601,564
10Seoul GimpoGMPBusanPUS528,291
World’s Busiest Airline Routes — May 2021

World’s Busiest Airline Routes — Key Take-Aways

Domestic Routes Dominate the World’s Busiest Airline Routes

When taking a closer look at the world’s 10 busiest airport routes in May 2021, it is interesting to see that the list solely consists of domestic routes. There’s no international route among the busiest routes at the moment. This, of course, is a direct impact of COVID-19. However, even in Asia, which recovers much better from the pandemic than Europe, the traffic seems to concentrate on domestic routes.

World's 10 busiest airline routes

8 out of 10 Busiest Routes are in Asia

It is probably not surprising but still amazing to see Asia’s dominance in the world’s busiest routes. A fact that is also reflected by the busiest airports and biggest airlines at the moment. Nonetheless, I can’t remember a similar ranking without any U.S. or European routes contained.

Tokyo Haneda & Shanghai Hongqiao are top Players Among the Busiest Airline Routes

Tokyo Haneda and Shanghai’s Hongqiao are top players among the busiest airline routes. Again a fact, we already identified when looking at the world’s biggest airports. Hongqiao, for example, climbed 36 ranks among the world’s biggest airports and currently represents the world’s number 10 in terms of passengers.


World’s Busiest Airline Routes — Airport Information

Since you probably don’t know all of the airports contained in the list of the world’s busiest airline routes, we put together some short information about each airport.

Jeju International

Jeju International Airport (IATA: CJU, ICAO: RKPC) is the second-largest airport in South Korea, just behind Incheon Airport in Incheon. It is located in the city of Jeju. The airport opened in 1968. Jeju International Airport serves many mainland destinations in South Korea and international destinations in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Malaysia. In 2015, 26,237,562 passengers used the airport.

Seoul Gimpo

Gimpo International Airport (IATA: GMP, SEL, ICAO: RKSS) is located in the far western end of Seoul, some 15 km (9 mi) west of the Central District of Seoul. Gimpo was the main international airport for Seoul and South Korea before being replaced by Incheon International Airport in 2001. It now functions as Seoul’s secondary airport. In 2015, 23,163,778 passengers used the airport.


Nội Bài International Airport (IATA: HAN, ICAO: VVNB) in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is the largest airport in Vietnam in terms of total capacity. It is also the largest airport in cargo transport and the second busiest airport for passenger traffic. The airport consists of two passenger terminals. Terminal 1 serves domestic flights, and the newly built Terminal 2 (inaugurated on 4 January 2015) serves all international flights to and from Hanoi. The airport is currently the main hub of the flag carrier Vietnam Airlines and budget carriers Bamboo Airways, Pacific Airlines, and Vietjet Air.

Ho Chi Minh City

Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport (IATA: SGN, ICAO: VVTS) is the busiest airport in Vietnam, with 32.5 million passengers in 2016 and 38.5 million passengers in 2018. It serves Ho Chi Minh City as well as the rest of southeastern Vietnam.


Beijing International Airport is one of two international airports in China’s capital. It had become the busiest airport in Asia regarding passenger traffic and total traffic movements by 2009. It also has been the world’s second busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic since 2010. Beijing Airport has three runways and is one of few airports that has handled more than 100 million passengers in a year (2019).

Shanghai Hongqiao

Hongqiao Airport mainly serves domestic and regional flights, although the airport also serves international flights. Hongqiao airport has two runways and was certified with a Skytrax 5-star rating. Moreover, the airport serves as a hub for China Eastern Airlines, Juneyao Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, and Spring Airlines.


Melbourne Airport (IATA: MEL, ICAO: YMML), colloquially known as Tullamarine Airport, is the primary airport serving the city of Melbourne and the second busiest airport in Australia. It opened in 1970 to replace the nearby Essendon Airport. Melbourne Airport is the main international airport of the four airports serving the Melbourne metropolitan area, the other international airport being Avalon Airport.


Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport (IATA: SYD, ICAO: YSSY) is an international airport in Sydney, Australia, located 8 km (5 mi) south of the Sydney central business district, in the suburb of Mascot. Sydney Airport Holdings own the airport. It is the primary airport serving Sydney and is a primary hub for Qantas and a secondary hub for Virgin Australia and Jetstar, and a focus city for Air New Zealand.


New Chitose Airport (IATA: CTS, ICAO: RJCC) is an international airport located 2.7 NM (5.0 km; 3.1 mi) south-southeast of Chitose and Tomakomai, Hokkaidō, Japan, serving the Sapporo metropolitan area. By both traffic and land area, it is the largest airport in Hokkaidō.


Tokyo International Airport, known as Haneda Airport, is one of Tokyo’s two main airports. The airport has the IATA code HND. The airport commenced operations in 1931 and handled almost 90 million passengers in 2018. Accordingly, it is one of the world’s best airports and the world’s 4th busiest airport. In addition, the airport is considered the world’s cleanest domestic airport. The airport serves as a hub for Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airlines, Skymark Airlines, Air Do, and Solaseed Air.


Fukuoka Airport (IATA: FUK, ICAO: RJFF), formerly known as Itazuke Air Base, is an international and domestic airport located east of Hakata Station in Hakata-Ku, Fukuoka, Japan. Fukuoka Airport is the principal airport on the island of Kyushu and is the fourth busiest passenger airport in Japan. As of 2017, the airport is the fourth busiest single-runway airport by passenger traffic (after Mumbai, London–Gatwick, and İstanbul-Sabiha Gökçen).


Shenzhen International Airport is located in China’s south and opened in 1991. The airport operates three terminals and two runways. It is one of the three largest airport hubs serving the Pearl River Delta, alongside Hong Kong International Airport and Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport. In addition, the airport serves as a hub for airlines such as Donghai Airlines, SF Airlines, or Shenzhen Airlines.


King Abdulaziz International Airport (IATA: JED, ICAO: OEJN) is an International airport located in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and is the main Saudi international airport. Named after King Abdulaziz Al Saud and inaugurated in 1981, it serves most international travel and is the largest hub for Saudi Arabia’s flag carrier Saudia. In addition, the airport’s Hajj Terminal was specially built for Muslim pilgrims going to Mecca annually on the Hajj.


King Khalid International Airport (IATA: RUH, ICAO: OERK) is located north of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This airport consists of five passenger terminals. Formerly the largest airport in the world in terms of ground area, the land area allocated for KKIA is the second-largest in the world, after King Fahd International Airport.


Gimhae International Airport, commonly known as Gimhae Airport (IATA: PUS, ICAO: RKPK) (formerly Kimhae International Airport), is located on the western end of Busan, South Korea. The name “Gimhae” comes from the nearby city of Gimhae. It opened in 1976.

The World’s Busiest Airline Routes — What’s your Opinion?

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Benjamin Walther

CEO, Frankfurt

Benjamin is Information Design's CEO and a proven content-maniac. Besides running a successful business and developing pioneering ideas, he's dedicated to writing blog posts and creating content.

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