Photo of Emirates a380 flying

The pandemic has changed just about everything in travel, we know that. But with each country brings entirely different circumstances and progress in tackling the global health crisis. In Dubai and the UAE, vaccinations are streaming along, and with endless winter sun, it’s remained a perennial favorite destination for Brits. Yes, even this year. In fact, it’s become the world’s busiest international airline route.

a cityscape with a river and a body of water
Image by Selim Mohammed from Pixabay

Busiest Airline Routes In January 2021

OAG the global travel data provider has been hard at work analyzing trends during the global pandemic. In what can only be described as a fascinating snapshot, they’ve put out a list of the busiest global airline for January on a domestic, and international basis, offering a peek at who’s still moving, and where.

South Korea retains the title for the busiest domestic route, between ever desirable Jeju Island and Seoul with over 1.07 million seats in January. But for international flying, Dubai and London Heathrow are now atop the throne with 190,365 seats.

Fun fact: for domestic travel, 9 of the 10 busiest routes are in Asia, with Saudi Arabia grabbing the only non-Asia spot, with Jeddah-Riyadh.

China, South Korea and Japan make up the vast majority of the busiest domestic flying, with the exception of Vietnam, which came second overall behind Seoul-Jeju Island for flights between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The route offers an impressive 1,020,790 seats in January. Flights between Beijing and Shanghai top the list of China’s domestic routes.

65181704 - sunrise at seongsan ilchulbong, jeju island, south korea.

Top International Routes For January 2021

Flights between New York and London, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, and other historically rammed international routes are at a near standstill, yet sunny adventure in Dubai has been too tempting to avoid for Brits, perhaps for too many. Emirates has flown up to six daily A380’s to Heathrow in response to wowing demand.

Other flights topping the international busiest route list for January 2021 include Jeddah-Cairo, and Tokyo-Seoul. The full list can be viewed here.

Top USA flying routes lag behind most of Asia by over 800,000 seats per month, but there are still quite a few surprising routes with significant uptake, and most of them involve Atlanta. Flights between Atlanta and Florida gateways Tampa, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale make up the top three US domestic routes.

Denver-Phoenix sneaks into fourth place, and flights from Dallas to Las Vegas and Los Angeles round out the top half, with significant presence from Seattle in the bottom half of the top 10. Seattle flights to Phoenix, Anchorage and Los Angeles fill out spots 8,9 and 10.

Big Changes Expected

Vaccinations are beginning to hit significant output, and early studies from Pfizer indicate that their vaccine works against new mutations which caused brief concern around the globe. Within months, the shape of international flying could be vastly different, with the table experiencing a complete shuffle.

Still, it’s fascinating to see who’s still moving, where, and also – which routes no longer factor atop the global leaderboards. Any surprises for you, on there?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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    1. Typically defined as Middle East, by travel companies. Asia, Indian subcontinent, Middle East, Africa, Europe, etc. For example, many travel companies define EMEA – Europe, Middle East, Africa as one one area of the business.

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