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Mapping the World’s Busiest Air Routes

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Mapping the World's Busiest Air Routes

Mapping the World’s Busiest Air Routes

Modern air travel gives us almost unlimited possibilities for getting around.

Whether you are acting on your wanderlust to explore new and exotic destinations, hopping to a familiar island for a well-deserved vacation, or jetsetting to London in the comfort of business class, the modern airline industry can get you almost anywhere you need to go.

But while flying allows us to have unique experiences, it’s often the case that we are all coming and going from many of the same popular destinations. As a result, the world’s busiest air routes have hundreds of flights per day connecting important city pairs together.

Ranking City Pairs

Today’s chart pulls data from OAG, which has compiled a detailed report ranking the busiest domestic and international air routes from around the globe.

It’s worth noting that the data is over the period of March 2018 to February 2019, and it excludes carriers that operate fewer than 500 routes per year.

Let’s dive in to see which city pairs have the most air travel between them.

Domestic Routes

Domestic routes are far more popular than international routes globally. According to the report, there are 15 domestic routes that have more operating flights per year than any international route anywhere.

Here’s a look at the top 10 domestic routes:

RankCountryCity PairFlights (Annually)Carriers
#1🇰🇷Jeju ↔️ Seoul79,4607
#2🇦🇺Melbourne ↔️ Sydney54,1024
#3🇮🇳Mumbai ↔️ Delhi45,1886
#4🇧🇷São Paulo ↔️ Rio de Janeiro39,7473
#5🇯🇵Fukuoka ↔️ Toyko39,4064
#6🇻🇳Hanoi ↔️ Ho Chi Minh City39,2913
#7🇯🇵Hokkaido ↔️ Tokyo39,2714
#8🇮🇩Jakarta ↔️ Surabaya City37,7626
#9🇺🇸Los Angeles ↔️ San Francisco35,3655
#10🇸🇦Jeddah ↔️ Riyadh35,1495

The busiest domestic route might be a surprise, unless you are familiar with Asian geography.

With almost 80,000 annual flights, the 300-mile hop between Seoul and Jeju Island in South Korea is the busiest air route in the world by a large margin. Overall, there are seven carriers competing on it each day, with over 200 daily flights available between them.

What makes Jeju so popular?

Known as the “Hawaii of South Korea”, this volcanic island is an extremely popular vacation destination within the country, and it hosts roughly 15 million guests per year.

International Routes

On an international basis, the busiest route has almost 50,000 fewer flights per year than the Jeju-Seoul city pair listed above. Not surprisingly, this route – and many other top international routes – are also located in the Asia Pacific region.

RankCountriesCity PairFlights (Annually)Carriers
#1🇲🇾🇸🇬Kuala Lumpur ↔️ Singapore30,1878
#2🇭🇰🇹🇼Hong Kong ↔️ Taipei28,4475
#3🇮🇩🇸🇬Jakarta ↔️ Singapore27,0467
#4🇭🇰🇨🇳Hong Kong ↔️ Shanghai20,6785
#5🇮🇩🇲🇾Jakarta ↔️ Kuala Lumpur19,7418
#6🇰🇷🇯🇵Seoul ↔️ Osaka19,7118
#7🇺🇸🇨🇦New York (LGA) ↔️ Toronto17,0383
#8🇭🇰🇰🇷Hong Kong ↔️ Seoul15,7709
#9🇹🇭🇸🇬Bangkok ↔️ Singapore14,6985
#10🇦🇪🇰🇼Dubai ↔️ Kuwait14,5814

The short hop between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur takes only one hour, and it connects two major Southeast Asian commercial hubs. The route has 41 flights per day between eight airlines, making it one of the most competitive routes globally.

The busiest international route outside of the Asia Pacific is between Toronto and New York (LaGuardia) with 17,038 annual flights. Interestingly, it only has three competing carriers – the lowest of any of the top 10 routes.

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Chart of the Week

Ranked: Which Economies Are the Most Competitive?

The world’s top countries excel in many fields—but there can only be one #1. How have the most competitive economies shifted in the past decade?

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Ranked: Which Economies Are the Most Competitive?

What makes a country successful from an economic perspective? Many think of this in terms of GDP per capita—but in a rapidly changing world, our definitions of progress have evolved to encompass much more.

This animated Chart of the Week visualizes 10 years of global competitiveness, according to the World Economic Forum, and tracks how rankings have changed in this time.

How Do You Measure Competition?

The WEF’s annual Global Competitiveness Report defines the concept of ‘competitiveness’ as an economy’s productivity—and the institutions, policies, and factors which shape this.

This year’s edition unpacks the national competitiveness of 141 countries, using the newly-introduced Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) 4.0 which looks at four key metrics:

  1. Enabling Environment
    Includes: Institutions, Infrastructure, ICT Adoption*, Macroeconomic Activity
    *Refers to information and communications technology
  2. Human Capital
    Includes: Health, Skills
  3. Markets
    Includes: Product Market, Labor Market, Financial System, Market Size
  4. Innovation Ecosystem
    Includes: Business Dynamics, Innovation Capability
  5. Each country’s overall competitiveness score is an average of these 12 main pillars of productivity. With that out of the way, let’s dive into the countries which emerge triumphant.

    The Most Competitive: Movers and Shakers

    The world’s top countries excel in many fields—but there can only be one #1. In 2019, Singapore wins the coveted “most competitive economy” title, with a 84.8 score on the GCI.

    The nation’s developed infrastructure, health, labor market, and financial system have all propelled it forward—swapping with the U.S. (83.7) for the top spot. However, more can be done, as the report notes Singapore still lacks press freedom and demonstrates a low commitment to sustainability.

    How have the current scores of the most competitive economies improved or fallen behind, compared to 2018?

    RankEconomy2019 Score2018 Score2018-2019 Change
    #1🇸🇬 Singapore84.883.5+1.3
    #2🇺🇸 United States83.785.6-2
    #3🇭🇰 Hong Kong83.182.3+0.9
    #4🇳🇱 Netherlands82.482.40
    #5🇨🇭 Switzerland82.382.6-0.3
    #6🇯🇵 Japan82.382.5-0.2
    #7🇩🇪 Germany81.882.8-1
    #8🇸🇪 Sweden81.281.7-0.4
    #9🇬🇧 United Kingdom81.282-0.8
    #10🇩🇰 Denmark81.280.6+0.6

    Finland (80.2) and Canada (79.6) are notable exits from this top 10 list over the years. Meanwhile, Denmark (81.2) disappeared from the rankings for five years, but managed to climb back up in 2018.

    Regional Competitiveness: Highs and Lows

    Another perspective on the most competitive economies is to look at how countries fare within regions, and how these regions compete among each other.

    Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has the widest gap in competitiveness scores—Israel (76.7) scores over double that of poorest-performing Yemen (35.5). Interestingly, the MENA region showed the most progress, growing its median score by 2.77% between 2018-2019.

    The narrowest gap is actually in South Asia, with just a single-digit difference between India (61.4) and Nepal (51.6). However, the region also grew the slowest, with only 0.08% increase in median score over a year.

    RegionBest Performer2019 ScoreWorst Performer2019 ScoreRegional
    Gap
    Europe and North America🇺🇸 United States83.7🇧🇦 Bosnia & Herzegovina54.729
    Latin America and the Caribbean🇨🇱 Chile70.5🇭🇹 Haiti36.334.2
    East Asia and Pacific🇸🇬 Singapore84.8🇱🇦 Laos50.134.7
    South Asia🇮🇳 India61.4🇳🇵 Nepal51.69.8
    Eurasia🇷🇺 Russia66.7🇹🇯 Tajikistan52.414.3
    Middle East and North Africa🇮🇱 Israel76.7🇾🇪 Yemen35.541.2
    Sub-Saharan Africa🇲🇺 Mauritius64.3🇹🇩 Chad35.129.2

    Across all regions, the WEF found that East Asia’s 73.9 median score was the highest. Europe and North America were not far behind with a 70.9 median score. This is consistent with the fact that the most competitive economies have all come from these regions in the past decade.

    As all these countries race towards the frontier—an ideal state where productivity growth is not constrained—the report notes that competitiveness “does not imply a zero-sum game”. Instead, any and all countries are capable of improving their productivity according to the GCI measures.

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Chart of the Week

Which Companies Are Responsible For the Most Carbon Emissions?

Since 1965, over ⅓ of the world’s cumulative carbon emissions can be traced back to just 20 fossil fuel companies. Who are the biggest contributors?

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20 Companies Responsible For the Most Carbon Emissions?

Since 1965, it’s estimated over 1.35 million metric tons (MtCO₂e) of greenhouse gases have been released into the atmosphere—and over a third can be traced back to just 20 companies.

This week’s chart draws on a dataset from the Climate Accountability Institute, and highlights the companies which have been responsible for the most carbon emissions in the past half-century.

The Sum of their Carbon Emissions

Between 1965-2017, the top 20 companies have contributed 480,169 MtCO₂e in total carbon emissions, or 35% of cumulative global emissions. This whopping amount is mostly from the combustion of their products—each company on this chart deals in fossil fuels.

The largest contributor? Saudi Aramco, the national petroleum and natural gas company of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Aramco actually comes in first on another list as well—it’s the most profitable company, making over $304 million daily.

However, this financial gain came at a significant cost: the state-owned giant’s operations have resulted in 59,262 MtCO₂e in carbon emissions since 1965. To put that into perspective, this total is more than six times China’s emissions in 2017 alone (9,838 MtCO₂e).

Explore the full list of companies by location, who owns them, and their total 1965–2017 emissions count below:

CompanyCountryOwnershipAll Emissions, MtCO₂e
Total Emissions480,169 MtCO₂e
Saudi Aramco🇸🇦 Saudi ArabiaState-owned59,262
Chevron🇺🇸 U.S.Investor-owned43,345
Gazprom🇷🇺 RussiaState-owned43,230
Exxon Mobil🇺🇸 U.S.Investor-owned41,904
National Iranian Oil Co.🇮🇷 IranState-owned35,658
BP🇬🇧 UKInvestor-owned34,015
Royal Dutch Shell🇳🇱 NetherlandsInvestor-owned31,948
Coal India🇮🇳 IndiaState-owned23,124
Pemex🇲🇽 MexicoState-owned22,645
Petroleus de Venezuela🇻🇪 VenezuelaState-owned15,745
PetroChina🇨🇳 ChinaState-owned15,632
Peabody Energy🇺🇸 U.S.Investor-owned15,385
ConocoPhillips🇺🇸 U.S.Investor-owned15,229
Abu Dhabi National Oil Co.🇦🇪 UAEState-owned13,840
Kuwait Petroleum Corp.🇰🇼 KuwaitState-owned13,479
Iraq National Oil Co.🇮🇶 IraqState-owned12,596
Total SA🇫🇷 FranceInvestor-owned12,352
Sonatrach🇩🇿 AlgeriaState-owned12,302
BHP Billiton🇦🇺 AustraliaInvestor-owned9,802
Petrobras🇧🇷 BrazilState-owned8,676

A Greener Business Model?

According to the researchers, all the companies that show up in today’s chart bear some responsibility for knowingly accelerating the climate crisis even after proven scientific evidence.

In fact, U.S.-based Exxon Mobil is currently on trial for misleading investors: the company downplayed the effect of climate change on its profitability, while internal calculations proved to be much larger. It also sowed public doubt on the immense impacts of rising greenhouse gas levels on the planet.

Growing sustainability and environmental concerns threaten the viability of old business models for these corporations, causing many to pivot away from the fossil fuel focus. Take BP for example—originally named British Petroleum, the company embraced “Beyond Petroleum” as its new rallying cry. More recently, it launched a carbon footprint calculator and is committed to keeping its carbon emissions flat into 2025.

However, the Climate Accountability Institute argues that more can still be done, with the researchers calling for these companies to reduce their fossil fuel production in the near future.

Continued pressure on these “Big Oil” companies to peak their carbon emissions, and urgently increase their renewable energy investment, may help curb the climate crisis before it’s too late.

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