Sydney-Melbourne the world's fifth busiest air route

By David Flynn, June 14 2012
Sydney-Melbourne the world's fifth busiest air route

As you shuttle between Sydney and Melbourne on any given day, take comfort in knowing that you're among seven million people who make the same inter-city trek each year.

That's not only equivalent to one-third of Australia's population – it also puts the bustling Sydney-Melbourne corridor in the top five of the world's busiest airline routes.

And with just under four million passengers flying annually between Sydney and Brisbane, this upper leg of Australia's 'golden triangle' of travel slots into 12th place on the world ladder.

Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are among the world's busiest airline routes. Data by Amadeus, graphic by The Economist
Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are among the world's busiest airline routes
Data by Amadeus, graphic by The Economist

According to travel technology and bookings company Amadeus, a South Korean domestic route between Seoul and Jeju – the largest volcanic island in South Korea, and a premium tourist destination –  is the world's busiest air traffic route in terms of volume, with some 9.9 million passengers in 2011.

Second on the list if is Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro-Sao Paulo sector, followed by two domestic Japanese routes (Tokyo-Osaka and Tokyo-Sapporo).

The USA doesn't even make the top 15: its three busiest routes tally around three million passengers each, winging their way between New York and Chicago, Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles.

It's also telling that the Asia Pacific region is home to eight out of the world’s 10 busiest inter-city air routes.

Amadeus also reports that the strongest growth in absolute passenger traffic is led by the BRIC countries. China registered an additional 19 million in 2011, Brazil, 12 million, India eight million and Russia six million. Indonesia was the fifth strongest growth market with an additional five million passengers.

To gain a very real sense of just how busy the skies above us are, check out this amazing video showing all commercial flights around the world in a 24 hour period, compressed into little more than one minute!

The video simulation was cooked up by boffins at the Zurich School of Applied Sciences using data drawn from FlightStats.

The flights appear like bee swarms as they head towards major destinations.

You can see air traffic peak, taper off and pick up again as day changes to night – watch for those flights racing the sun to hit an early morning arrival into Australia, the west coat of the USA and Europe.

(You'll also spot some flights seemingly travelling at warp-speed near the top of the map, most noticeably heading in from the right-hand side close to the 1.05 mark. While those aircraft appear to make the Concorde look like a Sopwith Camel, their speed is exaggerated because they're crossing the Arctic Circle – a 3D area that's distorted on this 2D map.)

Keep up to date with the latest news for Australian business travellers and frequent flyers: tune into @AusBT on Twitter.


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.

Interesting. I've been on 9/15 of those routes. 

30 Jun 2011

Total posts 49

So, next issue is: could the Qantas Melbourne Domestic lounge be the busiest airport lounge in the world?  Sure seems so.

13 Feb 2011

Total posts 30

Interesting that the route is now in fifth place.  Many years ago it was in third place (after the 2 Japanese routes) but I guess the increase of travel in Asia and South America has moved us down the ladder.

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