Dubai to London Heathrow is the world’s number-one route in November if measured by available seat miles. Distance, large aircraft, frequent service, many seats per flight, and the pandemic all play a part in the result. We look at the world’s top-10 routes by this measure.
How to look at the ‘size’ of routes
There are multiple ways of looking at ‘top’ routes and indeed routes in general. This could be by the number of passengers carried, number of seats on offer, number of flights, available seat miles, revenue passenger miles, total revenue, profitability, and more.
Some information is entirely or only partly available, while other, more accessible measures are commonly used. Some data is available well ahead of time, and others only two or more months after the fact – if at all publicly. All have different benefits, are valid, and each provides further insights because they measure different things.
Available seat miles
Available seat miles (ASMs) simply mean one seat flown one mile. For example, one 100-seat aircraft flying one 1,000-mile one-way flight would have 100,000 ASMs. If there was a once-daily round-trip across a whole year, it’d have 73 million ASMs (100,000 x two ways x 365 days).
ASMs are one way of gauging airline output. What it sells of that output would be ‘sold output’ or ‘revenue per ASM’. Sold output is further broken down to passenger revenue per ASM (PRASM), total revenue per ASM (TRASM), and so on.
If that one aircraft could realistically operate three return trips per day, it has the capacity to produce 219 million ASMs annually. As such, its output of 73 million is just one-third of what it could be and well below capacity.
The aircraft isn’t being fully utilized, although whether it’d be economically sensible to grow output depends on many factors, including the aircraft’s age, fuel consumption, and ownership costs. Allegiant, Breeze, and Volotea elected to use older aircraft less often, trading higher variable costs (fuel, maintenance) for lower fixed costs (ownership).
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The world’s top-10 routes this month
This month, Dubai to Heathrow is the world’s number-one route if measured in ASMs, analyzing OAG schedules data reveals. This is despite having just 7% of the flights and 17% of the seats of Seoul Gimpo to Jeju, the world’s leading route by flights and seats. Of course, this is comparing apples and oranges.
- Dubai to Heathrow: 772.88 million ASMs in November
- Heathrow to New York JFK: 659.09 million
- JFK to Los Angeles: 634.70 million
- Honolulu to Los Angeles: 568.42 million
- Paris Orly to Réunion (St. Denis): 531.64 million
- Shanghai Hongqiao to Beijing Capital: 512.21 million
- Heathrow to Los Angeles: 500.96 million
- Okinawa to Tokyo Haneda: 496.42 million
- Beijing Capital to Shenzhen: 469.00 million
- JFK to San Francisco: 462.13 million
Why is Dubai to Heathrow #1?
The link from Dubai to Heathrow wouldn’t be number-one without multiple factors. These include a relatively high frequency of service (eight daily departures) and a large number of seats per flight (an average of 470), helped by three-quarters of flights being by the A380.
It is also from a long distance (3,421 miles, 5,505km) and the pandemic, which has seen output recover much faster than many other markets, including several that would ordinarily be in the top-10 list. Of course, it is ultimately because of the cumulative effect of all of these factors.
How does the top-10 vary versus Nov. 2019?
As you might expect, the top-10 as changed markedly in two years because of the pandemic. Not all markets have reopened at the same pace, and they have not recovered the same.
Heathrow to Singapore used to be first, helped by long distance, big aircraft (six in ten flights by the A380), and relatively high frequency (seven daily departures), but it is not in the top-10 list in 2021. Nor are various others, including two to Sydney, although Australia is slowly reopening its borders.
Dubai to Heathrow has jumped from sixth place to first, helped by its output being down by just 4% versus in 2019, significantly better than the others. Of course, this does not mean passenger volume, fares, or loads have recovered to the same extent.
- Heathrow to Singapore: 1.07 billion ASMs in November 2019
- Heathrow to JFK: 1.05 billion
- Heathrow to Hong Kong: 887.38 million
- JFK to Los Angeles: 856.30 million
- Heathrow to Los Angeles: 871.76 million
- Dubai to Heathrow: 804.97 million
- Los Angeles to Sydney: 694.40 million
- Beijing Capital to Guangzhou: 695.68 million
- Singapore to Sydney: 677.66 million
- Beijing Capital to Shenzhen: 674.01 million
Eight flights a day from Dubai to Heathrow
This November, this airport pair has eight departures a day, six with Emirates and two with British Airways. The schedule for the day of writing is as follows, with all times local.
- EK7: leaving Dubai at 03:10 and arriving Heathrow at 07:10; A380
- BA106: 03:30-07:40, A350-1000
- EK1: 07:45-11:40; A380
- EK29: 09:40-13:50; A380
- BA104: 10:20-14:20; A350-1000
- EK31: 12:10-16:10; A380
- EK3: 14:30-18:20; A380
- EK5: 16:05-20:00; A380
Emirates’ all-A380 service to Heathrow
All of Emirates’ Heathrow services are again by the A380, which is increasingly returning to service. What configuration of the double-decker quadjet is used to Heathrow varies, although the 516-seater is most common. No Heathrow flight sees the high-density, two-class, 615-seater.
When writing, four of the six departures from Dubai are using 516-seat aircraft. The two exceptions are EK1 and EK3, which deployed aircraft with 484 seats, ch-aviation.com shows. These are four-class aircraft: 14 in first, 76 in business, 56 in premium economy, and 338 in economy.
Which of the world’s top-10 routes have you flown? Let us know in the comments.