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Sydney-Melbourne vanishes from world’s busiest routes

November 23, 2020 Aviation, Headline News 1 Comment

Just a year ago, back in pre-Covid times, Sydney-Melbourne was the third-busiest city pair in the world in terms of air traffic – but the lockdown blues since then have seen this once thriving leisure and business travel route vanish from the world’s top 10 air routes, which are now completely dominated by Asia.

Not only is Sydney-Melbourne no longer in the world’s top 10 busiest air routes, it is not even in Australia’s top 10.

This month, the world’s top 10 busiest domestic routes are all in Asia. Four are in China, four in Japan and the remaining two are in South Korea and Vietnam. The largest, South Korean domestic route CJU-GMP (Jeju International-Seoul Gimpo) had over 1.3 million seats in November 2020, retaining its position as the world’s busiest domestic route, according to OAG’s popular Busiest Routes Right Now index.

Jeju International-Seoul Gimpo was also the world’s busiest air route in 2018, with 14.1 million passengers. Second in 2018 was Sapporo-Tokyo Haneda with 9.7 million passengers – and third was Sydney-Melbourne with 9.25 million passengers.

This year, the year of coronavirus, there is no sign of Sydney-Melbourne. Australia’s Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE) notes dryly in its summary for September 2020 (the latest month for which BITRE has compiled data): “There were 1 million passengers carried on Australian domestic commercial aviation (including charter operations) in September 2020, a decrease of 81.1% on September 2019. For the month of September 2020, there were 22.4 thousand aircraft trips, a decrease of 60.9% compared to September 2019.”

BITRE continues: “For the month of September 2020, Brisbane-Cairns was Australia’s busiest RPT route with 75 thousand passengers, a decrease of 31.8% compared with September 2019. It was followed by Brisbane-Townsville with 44.3 thousand passengers (down 51.4%) and Ballina-Sydney with 35.3 thousand passengers (down 1.5%).

(RPT stands for Regular Public Transport services. Scheduled commercial passenger flights, in other words.)

The top 10 busiest air routes in Australia for the month of September 2020 were:

  1. Brisbane-Cairns
  2. Brisbane-Townsville
  3. Ballina-Sydney
  4. Broome-Perth
  5. Karratha-Perth
  6. Brisbane-Mackay
  7. Adelaide-Brisbane
  8. Brisbane-Rockhampton
  9. Brisbane-Proserpine
  10. Brisbane-Darwin

That’s according to data released last week. Sydney makes it onto the list, but only a toehold, in conjunction with Ballina, gateway to Byron Bay on the NSW North Coast  (35,300 travelled on that route in September).

Melbourne, which imposed a lockdown crackdown, has disappeared from the list completely.

Then again, Victoria got rid of the virus, an achievement hailed from all sides. Yesterday’s 14-day average Covid-19 case number for metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria was zero.

You can’t beat zero.

Help is on the way, hopefully. The NSW-Victoria border opens today after being closed for more than four months by pandemic control measures – and Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce expects to restore the airline’s seat capacity to at least half its pre-coronavirus levels by Christmas.

Above: Melbourne Street Art


This month, November 2020, OAG’s list of the World’s Top 10 busiest domestic routes is as follows, with airport code, name, and seats on route during the month.

  1. CJU-GMP Jeju International-Seoul Gimpo          1,329,397
  2. HAN-SGN Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh City        892,805
  3. PEK-SHA Beijing-Shanghai Hongqiao   768,184
  4. CTS-HND Sapporo New Chitose-Tokyo Haneda       669,431
  5. FUK-HND Fukuoka-Tokyo Haneda         624,478
  6. CAN-SHA Guangzhou-Shanghai Hongqiao         617,644
  7. SHA-SZX Shanghai Hongqiao-Shenzhen            602,880
  8. HND-ITM Tokyo Haneda-Osaka Itami    485,369
  9. CTU-PEK Chengdu-Beijing         475,857
  10. HND-OKA Tokyo Haneda-Okinawa Naha           465,187

This month, half of the world’s Top 10 busiest International routes start or end in Asia. Three routes start or end in Dubai and just two operate to or from Europe. None start or end in North America.

OAG’s busiest international routes in November 2020 are:

  1. CAI-JED Cairo-Jeddah   147,950
  2. MCO-SJU Orlando-San Juan       137,886
  3. DXB-LHR Dubai-London Heathrow        111,000
  4. ICN-NFU Seoul Incheon-Tokyo Narita  109,868
  5. DEL-DXB Delhi-Dubai    104,126
  6. CAI-DXB Cairo-Dubai    101,434
  7. BKK-HKG Bangkok-Hong Kong 94,376
  8. HKG-TPE Hong Kong-Taipei      93,922
  9. IKA-IST Tehran Imran Khomeini-Istanbul Ataturk     90,120
  10. DXB-KHI Dubai-Karachi     89,591

Written by Peter Needham



Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. mindmybag says:

    Interesting stats. I wonder how quickly it will return to the top end of this list.

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