Skift Take

The absence of New York, London and Dubai in the top 10 is a reminder of the huge demand for air travel in and around the Asia-Pacific region.

With the holiday season over and budgets tight, January is traditionally one of the quietest months of the year for international flying. Corporate traffic can be slow and weather is often suboptimal (if not sub-zero) at many key vacation destinations. 

Even in the off-peak, there are still tens of millions of people flying worldwide – but which routes were the busiest this month? Using the latest data from analytics firm OAG, Skift can reveal the international flights that bucked the global trends and enjoyed the strongest start to the year.

1: Hong Kong to Taipei

Easily leading the pack in January for international capacity was Hong Kong to Taipei. With journeys typically taking less than 90 minutes between the two hubs, the route is popular with both business and leisure travelers.

Big-name airlines such as Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, and EVA Air often roster their largest widebody jets, which boosts passenger capacity but also helps carry more cargo. More than half a million seats were available during January 2024.

2: Cairo to Jeddah

In second place is the first of two Middle Eastern routes in the international top 10. While Cairo to Jeddah is a vital link for trade, the Saudi airport also serves as a key gateway to holy sites. Up to eight scheduled airlines link the two cities, with low-cost brands such as Air Arabia and flyadeal battling it out with flag carriers EgyptAir and Saudia.

3: Seoul to Tokyo Narita

In third position is the first of three appearances for Seoul. More than 428,000 seats were offered in January alone between the Incheon International Airport and Tokyo Narita.

The route linking the two Asian megacities is popular with budget firms and legacy airlines alike, with a total of 10 different companies flying between the pair. This ranking is all the more impressive considering that additional travel options to Tokyo Haneda Airport are also available.

Here’s the Top 10 List of Busiest International Routes:

RouteRoute NameSeats
1HKG-TPEHong Kong – Taipei546,276
2CAI-JEDCairo – Jeddah468,103
3ICN-NRTSeoul Incheon – Tokyo Narita428,238
4KUL-SINKuala Lumpur – Singapore Changi411,074
5ICN-KIXSeoul Incheon – Osaka Kansai408,982
6DXB-RUHDubai – Riyadh384,044
7CGK-SINJakarta – Singapore Changi352,438
8BKK-ICNBangkok – Seoul Incheon343,100
9BKK-HKGBangkok – Hong Kong336,323
10NRT-TPETokyo Narita – Taipei325,577
Source: OAG, Jan 30, 2024

Note that the OAG data is based on available seat capacity – not the number of passengers carried. 

Come back tomorrow as we take a closer look at the busiest domestic routes in the United States for January. If you can’t wait until then for your next data fix, check out our ranking of London Heathrow’s busiest routes for 2023 here.

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