by Moon, MAKE UP

The world\'s busiest air route? You\'ll never guess


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

The correct answer will 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 (stop sniggering) to Jeju International. There were a staggering 64,991 departures between these two airports in 2017 – that works out at around 178 a day. 

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 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.

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.

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.

Fancy discovering Jeju for yourself? UK tour operator Cox & Kings can put together an itinerary.

What do those crowded skies look like?

A bit like this: 

FlightRadar24 tracks every commercial aircraft on the planet and is a wonderful resource for aviation geeks like us. As the image above shows, there are planes flying across most corners of the planet at any given time. For jet-free skies, you'll need to head to Siberia, the northernmost reaches of Canada, the Amazon, the Sahara, the Australian Outback, or Madagascar. 

And here are the skies over Europe in the early evening. Southern England, Germany and the Low Countries are entirely obscured, as is much of France, Italy and Spain. Relative to size, our continent has by far the most crowded skies.

Particularly chocka are those 288 miles that separate London and Dublin, Europe's busiest route (as outlined above). 

Note too the busy skies around the Canary Islands and Moscow, and the long queue of aircraft skirting the south-eastern corner of Turkey to avoid flying over Syria and Iraq. See our gallery for more crowded skies, courtesy of FlightRadar24. 

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.


  • Moon
  • 2018-01-09 18:12:50
  • 47


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