November’s #1 Global Route: Dubai To London Heathrow

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.

Emirates A380
Dubai to Heathrow has risen from sixth place in November 2019. Photo: Emirates.

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.

Delta B767-300ER
Heathrow to JFK has more ASMs than any other route involving the US. American, British Airways, Delta, JetBlue, and Virgin Atlantic all serve it non-stop. Photo: Getty Images.

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).

United Airlines (Her Art Here-California Livery) Boeing 757-224 N14106 (2) (1)
American, Delta, JetBlue, and United all operate JFK-Los Angeles. The airport pair is the world’s #3 this month and has up to 29 daily departures from JFK. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

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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.

  1. Dubai to Heathrow: 772.88 million ASMs in November
  2. Heathrow to New York JFK: 659.09 million
  3. JFK to Los Angeles: 634.70 million
  4. Honolulu to Los Angeles: 568.42 million
  5. Paris Orly to Réunion (St. Denis): 531.64 million
  6. Shanghai Hongqiao to Beijing Capital: 512.21 million
  7. Heathrow to Los Angeles: 500.96 million
  8. Okinawa to Tokyo Haneda: 496.42 million
  9. Beijing Capital to Shenzhen: 469.00 million
  10. JFK to San Francisco: 462.13 million
World's top-10 routes by ASMs in November 2021
There is a significant emphasis on domestic routes. Where shorter routes are concerned, such as within Asia, they feature highly because of high frequency and usually a good use of widebodies. Image: OAG Mapper.

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.

EK3 Dubai to Heathrow
When writing, Emirates flight EK3 is one of five flights en route from Dubai to Heathrow, four by the A380. EK3 pushed back at 14:59 local time and departed at 15:28. It is currently overflying Kuwait and is due to arrive at Heathrow at 18:29 local. Image:

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.

  1. Heathrow to Singapore: 1.07 billion ASMs in November 2019
  2. Heathrow to JFK: 1.05 billion
  3. Heathrow to Hong Kong: 887.38 million
  4. JFK to Los Angeles: 856.30 million
  5. Heathrow to Los Angeles: 871.76 million
  6. Dubai to Heathrow: 804.97 million
  7. Los Angeles to Sydney: 694.40 million
  8. Beijing Capital to Guangzhou: 695.68 million
  9. Singapore to Sydney: 677.66 million
  10. Beijing Capital to Shenzhen: 674.01 million
Singapore Airlines
Singapore to Australia is slowly reopening. In November 2019, Singapore to Melbourne was the world’s 11th largest route by ASMs. Photo: Melbourne Airport.

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
BA A350-1000
BA’s A350-1000s have 56 seats in Club World, 56 in World Traveller Plus, and 226 in World Traveller. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Flickr.

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, 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.