The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has caused passenger demand levels to fall sharply. This has been reflected in airline schedules worldwide, which have been significantly reduced to adapt to the lack of demand. So, what are the busiest airline routes in the USA at present in light of these curious and challenging circumstances?
Travel data provider OAG is known for its ‘Busiest Routes‘ report, which it publishes on an annual basis. This comprehensive investigation into the airline industry compares statistics concerning the world’s busiest, longest, shortest, and most competitive routes. Comparisons are made both worldwide and on a regional scale, and the most recent report represented the last full year of pre-coronavirus ‘normality.’
With COVID-19 having hugely impacted almost every aspect of commercial aviation. The data in the next report is likely to be significantly different. How busy a route is is defined by the number of seats available for purchase on scheduled flights on the route in 2019. For the sake of comparison, in 2019, the busiest domestic routes in the USA (3 million seats or more) were as follows:
- Los Angeles – San Francisco, 4,658,377 seats
- New York JFK – Los Angeles, 4,269,994 seats
- Las Vegas – Los Angeles, 3,887,843 seats
- New York LaGuardia – Chicago O’Hare, 3,850,720 seats
- Atlanta – Orlando, 3,482,483 seats
- Atlanta – Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood, 3,120,953 seats
- Los Angeles – Chicago O’Hare, 3,118,856 seats
- Los Angeles – Seattle, 3,023,573 seats
The USA’s busiest routes today
OAG’s latest research into current trends reveals a rather different picture. Whereas Atlanta – Orlando had previously been the USA’s fifth busiest domestic route, it now sits atop the rankings. According to OAG’s data, there are 215,513 seats available on scheduled flights on this route in November 2020.
If we were to extrapolate this figure to a 12-month period, this would see 2,586,156 seats available annually. This would represent a drop of less than a million compared to 2019. However, figures are likely to have been even lower during the earlier months of the pandemic. As such, this would not be a consistent means of ascertaining trends for 2020 as a whole.
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November’s data sees some routes present that had not previously made the list. Denver, for example, did not feature in the eight busiest US domestic routes in 2019. However, it appears in five of the country’s seven busiest corridors in November 2020. These connect Colorado’s capital with Phoenix (3rd place, 190,723 seats), Las Vegas (4th place, 177,145 seats), Los Angeles (5th place, 167,859 seats), and Chicago (7th place, 158,455 seats).
Current international trends
International travel has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, with varying entry conditions and quarantine periods worldwide further complicating matters. Nonetheless, six international routes had over 100,000 seats available on scheduled services this November. These were:
- Cairo, Egypt-Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – 147,950 seats
- Orlando, USA-San Juan, Puerto Rico – 137,886 seats
- Dubai, UAE-London Heathrow, UK – 111,000 seats
- Seoul Incheon, South Korea-Tokyo Narita, Japan – 109,868 seats
- Delhi, India – Dubai, UAE – 104,126 seats
- Cairo, Egypt – Dubai, UAE – 101,434 seats
On the whole, the relatively high figures for the USA’s routes could be seen as the beginning of a return to normality. However, it is important to consider that the end of November sees Thanksgiving weekend when many Americans travel to celebrate with their families. As such, it will be interesting to see how these trends develop in the coming months, both regionally and internationally.