Sydney-Melbourne is now the world's second-busiest airline route

By David Flynn, January 8 2018
Sydney-Melbourne is now the world's second-busiest airline route

The next time you step on board a flight between Sydney and Melbourne, know that you're in world-beating company: you and your fellow travellers have rocketed the route between Australia's largest cities to number two spot on the global leaderboard.

The latest stats released by the aviation number-crunchers at pegs Sydney-Melbourne as the world's second busiest airline route, boasting 54,519 flights a year.

The world's busiest route remains the 1h15m dash between the South Korea capital Seoul and the nearby holiday island of Jeju, with 64,991 flights a year.

Sydney-Melbourne has long sat in the top five list, while Sydney-Brisbane now holds eighth spot on the worldwide ladder with 33,765 flights a year.

All of the ten busiest airline routes are domestic ones – the most popular international route is between Hong Kong and Taipei, with 29,494 flights a year – just ahead of  Singapore-Kuala Lumpur's tally of 29,383 flights a year.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 375

I think that shows how much we need fast rail. I know it will never happen though

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

26 Feb 2016

Total posts 101

Melbourne has been trying to connect the airport with a 10-km railway for 60 years. It will take at least 4000 years for building a 800-km railway to Sydney, or 4500 years if the railway goes through ACT.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1103

The number of flights have rocketed because QF, VA (and to a certain extent JQ) operate the route so inefficiently. 20 years ago, QF and AN operated this route almost exclusively with 767s. Now the route is almost exclusively 737s (and A320/1s for JQ and TT). QF operate a few A332s and VA the very occasional A332 but the average plane size has shrunk considerably even though the number of pax has increased.

I know the 737 and A320 are very cost-effective aircraft for the airlines but in a slot restricted airport like SYD (and MEL with its gate restrictions), a return to a larger plane makes sense particularly as, these days, a domestically configured 763 would be nearly 280 pax.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

23 May 2013

Total posts 44

Alan Joyce has previously said the A330s are too heavy for such a short hop and lower their yields on the route. Until Boeing comes out with the 797 for this market, I don’t think we’ll see any change soon.

Agree that JQ could definitely roster their A321 on the route more regularly

Another factor on this point is that as SYD (and to a lesser extent MEL) approach slot capacity, this could be a method of holding high value peak landing slots to the medium term, which would then allow for long term growth given that slots are allocated with historical precedence as the highest priority

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jun 2017

Total posts 41

Definitely agree! Bring back more A330 or the old 767... those were the days!

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 268

Lol, I miss the 767s for sure! Still remember, 26K whenever I could get it.

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 164

Does this take into account the number of cancelled flights between the two cities every day?? 😂

Being a minor av geek - I wonder which route has the largest capacity (being that SYD MEL is almost exclusively single aisle).... LON NYC has appox 12500 flights a year all 777, 747 and 787... with other city pairs having similar wide body traffic.... anyone know the busiest?

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 164

By seat capacity MEL-SYD is 4th, and by actual passengers 5th (numbers here are a couple of years old):

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 201

Airbus is looking at the A322 being up to a 250 seater version of the A320neo to cater for the gap left by the B757.

Would a A322 would work between SYD/MEL/SYD offering a 'Business Lite' product and semi recline slim seats for economy for 1 Hr 35min flight?

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 201

I just read that Airbus has launched the Airbus A321neo ACF this month, that can seat up to 240 paxs in one class configuration. Airbus is now taking orders with delivery from 2020.

Would a A321neo ACF work between SYD/MEL/SYD offering a 'Business Lite' product and semi recline slim seats for economy for 1 Hr 35min flight?

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1103

Both the A321 and 739ER (737MAX-10) would be fine as a way for QF or VA to increase capacity on the route without having to worry about gate width restrictions.

The only potential issue with these are that a longer single aisle plane can take a while to turn-around. This probably wouldn't be such an issue for VA since they commonly use rear door boarding. It will be interesting to see if VA choose to swap some of their MAX-8 orders for MAX-10s as a way to increase triangle capacity without adding extra services.

12 Feb 2014

Total posts 231

I always thought aircraft size was swapped for flight frequency. That was a good thing for passengers, particularly for business customers. More schedule choice and if a flight was cancelled airlines had more flexibility to respond and with less impact.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1103

The problem is for schedule integrity 30 minute gaps is about the limit. Where you have 15 minute gaps as is currently the case during peak periods, it is common for the later flight to pushback and arrive in advance of the flight scheduled 15 minutes earlier. This situation "cheeses" pax off.

China Airlines - Dynasty Flyer

12 May 2017

Total posts 7

Between Hong Kong and Taipei, many of them are using 747 and 777...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 47

The Seoul to Jeju route, although most flights are narrow body (737 & A320/1 ) it still has a few 767’s ploughing the route every day, and even a few 777’s & A330

It would be interesting to see if they go down the same path as Australia and replace the ageing wide body aircraft with newer narrow body planes over time, even more cementing that route into 1st place....

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 385

About time we had high speed trains. This air route would lose millions of passengers if we had this other more efficient, comfortable and less stressful method of transport.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 526

Strange that SIN-KUL is so busy. it's a mere 300km trip by road along a well maintained expressway that takes not much more than 3 hours by bus, taxi or car. KL airport is 80km from the city, this means that on a typical flight from SIN to KUL you'll need to spend an hour getting to SIN airport, arriving say 1.5 hours before the flight departure, then it's a 40min hop to KUL, say 45min for immigration and baggage claim then at least an hour to the city. Tally that up and it takes much longer to fly between the two cities than going by road. In a few years time, the new high speed rail link will probably outperform airlines so well that most flights between the two cities will be suspended. About the only sense it makes to fly between this city pair is if you're travelling to an onward destination beyond either KL or SIN on their metal. For example, KUL-SIN-LAX on SQ or SIN-KUL-DAC on MH or something like that.

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