Shanghai Overtakes London As Best City For Air Connectivity

Shanghai is now the best city in the world for air connectivity, overtaking London this year. The change comes as the pandemic continues to impact international air travel, with larger domestic airports taking the lead. Shanghai took the top spot this year, while London slips down to number eight in terms of global connectivity.

Shanghai Airport
Shanghai Airport held the number two ranking for connectivity in 2019. Photo: Shanghai Airport

China takes the lead

While Shanghai may have topped the list for the first time, other Chinese airports weren’t far behind. Beijing took second place, followed by Guangzhou and Chengdu, and Shenzhen coming in sixth place. Except for Beijing, none of the other cities were in the top 10 best-connected airports last year.

China Southern ARJ21
China’s domestic market has rebounded and is now reaching pre-pandemic levels. Photo: Getty Images

China’s lead comes as the country sees robust domestic demand in the last few months, now almost at pre-pandemic levels. While the country was the first to be hit with COVID-19 after the virus emerged there last year, it has since recovered and prevented a second wave as seen in other countries.

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Domestic airports lead the way

With international traffic still extremely low, airports with large domestic operations have entered the rankings. Chicago moved up to 6th place this year, while Los Angeles slipped to 7th. Dallas and Atlanta (9th and 10th) also joined the list due to domestic traffic. London was the only non-American or Chinese airport in the rankings this year.

Chicago moved up the rankings, while Dallas and Atlanta made the list due to their large domestic operations. Photo: Chicago O’Hare Airport

The lack of connecting flights and tourist traffic means major cities such as New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Bangkok no longer offered the most connectivity. However, IATA has made it clear that this list has little do with “winners” but more with those who “suffered fewer injuries”. We will likely see most of these airports return to the rankings in the coming years as travel picks up.

‘No shifts due to improvement in connectivity’

IATA has made it clear that all cities have been impacted by COVID-19 and none have actually seen connectivity improve. In a press release, IATA’s Senior Vice President for Member External Relations Sebastian Mikosz said,

“The dramatic shift in the connectivity rankings demonstrates the scale at which the world’s connectivity has been re-ordered over the last months. But the important point is that rankings did not shift because of any improvement in connectivity. That declined overall in all markets. The rankings shifted because the scale of the decline was greater for some cities than others….In a short period of time we have undone a century of progress in bringing people together and connecting markets.”

George Bush Intercontinetal Airport Newsroom
IATA warns that the current damage to the aviation industry could become permanent if solutions aren’t implemented. Photo: George Bush Intercontinental Airport Newsroom

The coming months will be critical for the airline industry, with tens of millions of aviation jobs on the line and warnings that the current damage could become permanent. For now, many airports have seen passenger volumes drop by over 90% and are now looking hopefully toward a vaccine to save the travel industry.