As COVID-19 spread around the world in 2020, many people stopped flying. As a result, many airlines curtailed their services. That saw some destinations lose previously high levels of connectivity. In many cases, the trend continues to this day.
Skyscanner’s latest Horizons report released on Tuesday highlights emerging traveller attitudes and booking preferences in key markets. The data clearly reveals the havoc COVID-19 continues to cause the airline and allied industries, including destination airports.
Drawing on its research, Skyscanner was able to nominate the top global underserved destinations. Bali takes the dubious prize right now as the world’s most underserved major destination.
But all continents except South America score a jersey in the top ten list. In order, and following Bali, the top underserved destinations are Cancún, Sydney, Malé, Zanzibar, Miami, Lisbon, Cairo, Athens, and Barcelona. It clearly shows the impact of COVID-19 isn’t restricted to certain regions.
What makes a destination underserved? According to Skyscanner, it refers to the most searched for destinations and is correlated against the number of flights scheduled there.
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Bali is the world’s most underserved destination
What airlines are flying where and when can change quickly in the present environment. But this airport snapshot looks at data current on Tuesday, October 12.
Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS) is served by 28 airlines including homegrown carriers Garuda Indonesia, Citilink, Wings Air, and Lion Air. The 28 airlines connect DPS to 48 destinations in 15 countries.
The top route from DPS is to Jakarta’s Soekarno–Hatta International Airport (CGK) with 228 flights this week. That easily eclipses the second top route, DPS to Sedati’s Juanda International Airport (SUB) with 72 weekly flights. The remaining top ten routes (in order) from DPS are to Lombok, Makassar, Komodo, Bima, Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport in East Jakarta, Tambolaka, Surakarta, and Bandung.
Cancun is the world’s second most underserved destination. Fifty-eight airlines fly to 127 destinations in 31 countries from Cancun International Airport (CUN) today. Most of CUN’s current connectivity is to destinations around the immediate region, including the US.
The top route from CUN is to Mexico City (MEX) with 276 flights a week. Monterrey International Airport (MTY) takes second billing with 84 flights a week. Thereafter, in order, comes Panama City, Guadalajara, Dallas Fort Worth, Houston Intercontinental, Miami, Denver, Newark, and Chicago O’Hare.
Sydney, Malé, & Zanzibar round out the top five underserved destination list
Skip across the ocean and Sydney (SYD) is the world’s third most underserved destination. These days, forty-one airlines fly to 96 destinations in 28 countries from Sydney. The best-connected route is Sydney and Melbourne (MEL) with 36 flights per week. This is followed by Hong Kong (HGK) with 25 flights a week and Singapore (SIN) with 24 flights a week. Then follows Auckland, Brisbane, Los Angeles, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Perth, and Adelaide.
Ranked fourth on the list of the world’s underserved destinations is Malé, home to Velana International Airport (MLE). Thirty-six airlines connect to 55 destinations in 25 countries from the island nation, including Emirates, SpiceJet, British Airways, and Maldivian.
The best-connected route is to Dubai (DXB) with 39 flights a week. After that comes Colombo (CMB) with 37 flights per week and Gan (GAN) with 31 flights a week. In order, then follows Dharavandhoo, Doha, Dhaalu, Maafaru, Kadhdhoo, Mumbai, and Maamigili.
Almost halfway along the list is Zanzibar, one of two African entries on the top ten list of major underserved airports. Zanzibar comes in fifth. Thirty-three airlines fly to 39 destinations in 24 countries from the island’s Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ). With the exception of Zurich (ZUR), all ZNZ’s connections are in eastern Africa and around the Gulf.
The busiest route is to Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, with 348 flights a week. This route is far busier than the next best-connected route, to Arusha with 76 flights a week. In order, the remaining top ten busiest routes from ZNZ are to Pemba Island, Tanga, Nairobi, Doha, Kilimanjaro, Seronera, Wilson Airport in Nairobi, and Dubai.
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There’s a degree of relativity about the concept of “underserved”
Interestingly, the sixth most unserved destination in Miami. Fifty-nine airlines fly into Miami International (MIA) from 225 destinations in 70 countries. There’s a certain relatively about what constitutes “unserved” – many airports would love to have Miami’s current roster of airlines and destinations.
Miami’s busiest routes are almost all domestic, with Altanta (ATL) the busiest with 154 flights a week. In second place was New York’s JFK airport with 127 flights a week. Bogota (BOG) took the third spot with 93 flights a week. There followed, in order, Newark, La Guardia, Orlando, Houston Intercontinental, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas Fort Worth, and Boston.
Now, the focus switches to Europe. Lisbon (LIS) is the seventh most unserved destination. Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado Airport is served 58 airlines that fly to 154 destinations in 51 countries. TAP Air Portugal, Ryan Air, and EasyJet are among the key airlines flying in.
The busiest route from LIS is to Madrid, with 82 flights per week. Madeira (FNC) takes second place with 69 flights per week. In third place São Miguel (PDL) with 51 flights a week. There follows Amsterdam, Paris Orly, Heathrow, Brussels, Porto, Geneva, and Barcelona’s El Prat Airport.
A few surprises on the underserved destinations list
Cairo is the world’s eighth most underserved destination. The city’s biggest airport is the unimaginatively named Cairo International (CAI). Forty-five airlines fly into Cairo from 118 destinations in 59 countries. The best-connected route is Jeddah (JED) with 96 flights a week. Riyadh (RUH) is the next best-connected destination with 59 flights per week, followed by Sharm El Sheikh (SSH) with 51 flights a week. The remaining top ten routes from CAI were to Istanbul, Hurghada, Kuwait, Aswan, Dubai, Luxor, and Queen Alia International Airport outside Amman.
Surprisingly, Athens is the world’s ninth most underserved destination. The city’s major airport, Athens International Airport (ATH) hosts 66 airlines. They connect Athens with 144 destinations in 44 countries. The top route from Athens is to Santorio (JTR) with 90 flights a week, followed by Thessaloniki (SKG) with 89 weekly flights, and Larnaca (LCA) with 71 weekly flights.
After Larnaca, Athen’s best connectivity (in descending order) is with Heraklion, London Heathrow, Chania, Rhodes, Paros, Mykonos, and Naxos.
Rounding out Skyscanner’s top ten list of underserved destinations is Barcelona. Like Miami, most folks would still consider the city pretty well-connected. Seventy-three airlines fly to 199 destinations in 61 countries from Barcelona’s El Prat International Airport (BCN) – not bad by world standards, but poor by Barcelona’s pre-COVID standards.
Currently, BCN’s best connectivity is to Palma de Mallorca. The city-pair has 147 flights a week. In the second spot is Madrid (MAD) with 100 weekly flights. Ibiza takes third place with 72 flights a week. Rounding out the top ten routes from BCN is Amsterdam, Seville, Menorca, Málaga, Bilbao, Paris Orly, and Rome’s Fiumicino International.
Skyscanner’s list of underserved airports throws up a few surprises, not least Barcelona. But underserved doesn’t refer to a tally of flights, it refers to a lack of connectivity to destinations people want to fly in from. COVID-19 has caused airlines to stop flying many routes and to many destinations.
As people begin flying again, maybe next year the makeup of this list will change.
Do you think any other airports should be on this list? Post a comment and let us know.