Revealed: the busiest flight routes in the world right now

Asian air routes have slipped down the rankings due to slow post-pandemic recovery

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham
News Editor, Time Out UK and Time Out London
A plane
Photograph: Shutterstock

Ever caught yourself staring at airport departure boards, watching the same places pop up again and again and wondered: which international flight route is the world’s busiest? Well, a recent study from flight analyst firm OAG has revealed just that.

By totting up the volume of scheduled seats per month, OAG has announced what it says have been the busiest flight routes in the world in 2022... and in the top spot isn’t necessarily one you’d expect. The air route between the Egyptian capital of Cairo and the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah took the crown, with over 3.2 million passengers having taken the route in the last year.

Back in 2019 (the last time air traffic was at comparable levels), the list of the busiest air routes looked very, very different. Eight of the top ten busiest air routes in the world in 2019 were in Asia, with the top spot taken by flights between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Asia has slipped down the rankings largely due to a slow recovery after the pandemic. Not only is China still largely closed to international travellers, but Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea aren’t yet welcoming visitors at the same levels as before. 

You can, of course, pick a few holes in OAG’s methodology. Based on scheduled seats rather than actual passengers, lots of planes might be flying between two destinations but they might not, y’know, really have many (or any) people on them. That being said, scheduled seats should still be a somewhat decent indicator of general busyness.

Here’s the full top ten busiest air routes in the world right now, along with the number of scheduled seats over the past 12 months. 

  1. Cairo to Jeddah (3,234,683 seats)
  2. Dubai to Riyadh (3,191,090)
  3. London Heathrow to New York JFK (2,848,044)
  4. London Heathrow to Dubai (2,697,593)
  5. Kuala Lumpur to Singapore (2,443,176)
  6. Dubai to Jeddah (2,425,930)
  7. Orlando to San Juan (2,099,234)
  8. Dubai to Mumbai (1,977,537)
  9. Cairo to Riyadh (1,913,991)
  10. Dubai to Delhi (1,898,749)

You can check out OAG’s full list and data here.

Did you see that these are the best airlines in the world in 2022?

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