’s 100 best unserved routes from Asia’s top 10 airports

Asia's top unserved markets

It’s amazing to think that the only two airports in the world handling over 100 million passengers a year do not have a direct flight between them, however OAG Traffic Analyser data shows that over 36,000 people a year are estimated to be flying between the two cities via another hub. Could Delta, which recently launched Shanghai Pudong flights from its busiest hub, be looking at adding Beijing next, as it receives more A350s? Here we showcase the top 100 unserved routes from Asia’s top 10 airports, with many showing a demand of over 100,000 passengers per annum!

With Routes Asia fast approaching, has decided this week to look at the top 10 unserved markets from the continent’s top 10 airports, with the top 10 airports for this feature being measured on total annual seat capacity for 2018. With the region’s leading air service development conference kicking-off in just a few days, it is the perfect time to showcase this data for airlines and airports before they sit down for those one-to-one meetings in tropical Cebu.

Time for a non-stop between the world’s biggest airports? 

The first airport to be looked at in this analysis is Beijing, which handled 100 million passengers in 2018. An analysis of OAG Traffic Analyser data shows that between October 2017 and September 2018, the airport’s biggest unserved market was Luanda in Angola, with over 40,000 passengers travelling indirectly between the two airports. However, another route which stands out above the rest is Atlanta, with it being a interesting fact that there are no non-stop services between the world’s two biggest airports. With Delta Air Lines having recently opened a direct route between the US hub and Shanghai Pudong, it is focused on growing links to Asia from Atlanta. So the question is, will Beijing be its next long-haul option from its biggest hub? 

Beijing Airport's top 10 unserved routes

Source: OAG Traffic Analyser data.

Of the top 10 unserved markets, one will be picked up this summer, with Hainan Airlines confirming it will begin a three times weekly service to Oslo Gardermoen (highlighted in light green) from 13 May. A route which was a surprise to to be listed among the top 10 was Basra in Iraq. However, in recent years, Chinese consortiums have invested heavily in the region, and the nation is trying to play a big role in the Middle Eastern state’s development. With Basra also being a big player in oil and gas production, in which China is ever-growing its investments, it makes sense that O&D traffic from Beijing is so high. Other honourable mentions of unserved routes from Beijing that just fall short of the top 10 include: 

  • Khartoum – 26,300 indirect passengers (between October 2017 and September 2018);
  • Nairobi – 26,050;
  • Ottawa – 25,850;
  • Casablanca – 25,800;
  • Adelaide – 25,550;
  • Denver – 25,010;
  • Dammam – 24,300;
  • Birmingham – 23,600;
  • Venice Marco Polo – 22,360. 

Barcelona is screaming out for a Tokyo connection 

Following Beijing, the second largest airport in Asia is Tokyo Haneda, an airport which handled over 87 million passengers in 2018 according to ACI. A look at its top unserved markets proves quite interesting, with four of them already having direct flights from Tokyo Narita, namely Rome Fiumicino, Denpasar, Madrid and Milan Malpensa (all highlighted in red). However, airports including Frankfurt, London Heathrow and Paris CDG support flights to both airports in Tokyo, so we have included those with flight to Tokyo Narita this analysis as potential future markets for carriers to pursue, because other European cities show a strong case for supporting routes to more than one airport in Tokyo. The leading unserved market is Barcelona, with it seeing a market size of close to 52,500 passengers a year.

Tokyo Haneda top 10 markets

Source: OAG Traffic Analyser data.

Interestingly, one market which appears in Tokyo Haneda’s top 10 unserved markets, along with Beijing’s, is Perth. However, from 1 September, All Nippon Airways will introduce flights to the Australian airport from Tokyo Narita. Other honourable mentions of routes that just fall short of making the top 10 include: 

  • Vienna – 26,190 indirect passengers between October 2017 and September 2018 (now served by All Nippon Airways as of 17 February);
  • Xi’an – 26,050;
  • Fuzhou – 23,540;
  • Orlando – 23,480;
  • Melbourne – 22,960 (connected to Tokyo Narita by Japan Airlines);
  • Berlin Tegel – 22,550;
  • Tokunoshima – 21,290;
  • Venice Marco Polo – 21,260;
  • Chiang Mai – 21,240;
  • Amsterdam – 20,600 (connected to Tokyo Narita by KLM).

Hong Kong’s hoping for a hint of Hawaii 

OAG Traffic Analyser data reveals that Hong Kong’s top unserved market is Honolulu, with the market attracting around 53,000 indirect passengers per annum. An interesting element of Hong Kong’s top unserved markets is that half (Geneva, Berlin Tegel, Prague, Lisbon and Birmingham) are based in Europe. The only market that is within Asia is Seoul Gimpo, the most central airport serving the South Korean capital. However, an array of airlines link Hong Kong to Seoul Incheon. 

Hong Kong top unserved markets

Source: OAG Traffic Analyser data.

Along with Honolulu, two other North American airports make it into Hong Kong’s top 10 unserved route list, namely Calgary and Montreal. One of the top markets sits outside Asia, North America and Europe, with that being Casablanca, a market with 37,440 indirect passengers per year. Other honourable mentions from Hong Kong for a viable service include: 

  • Hamburg – 24,550 passengers (between October 2017 and September 2018); 
  • Islamabad – 33,570;
  • Warsaw Chopin – 33,500;
  • Semarang – 32,990;
  • Oslo Gardermoen – 32,300. 

Shanghai Pudong wants more German cuisine 

The top 10 routes currently unserved from Shanghai Pudong accounted for just over half a million indirect passengers during the time analysed. The top unserved market from Shanghai Pudong is Düsseldorf, with it accounting for just under 70,000 two-way indirect passengers during the period analysed. Düsseldorf is an airport which already supports flights to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi, Beijing, Singapore and Tokyo Narita, therefore a route to Shanghai should work given the German airport’s respectable Asian route portfolio for an airport which handles 24.28 million passengers a year at present. Along with Düsseldorf, a further five European airports (Manchester, Venice Marco Polo, Athens, Hamburg and Berlin Tegel) are placed in the Chinese airport’s top 10 unserved markets.

Shanghai Pudong's top 10 unserved markets

Source: OAG Traffic Analyser data.

Two of the top 10 unserved markets from Shanghai Pudong are African destinations, namely Cairo and Johannesburg, while Sao Paulo is repesenting South America and Penang is the only Asian destination to feature. Other honourable mentions of unserved markets from Shanghai Pudong include:

  • Belgrade – 35,390 passengers (between October 2017 and September 2018);
  • Stuttgart – 35,260;
  • Santiago – 35,250;
  • Las Vegas – 35,140;
  • Casablanca – 34,420. 

Jakarta’s prepared for Paris demand 

Jakarta’s top unserved market is Paris CDG, with the market seeing close to 87,000 two-way indirect passengers between October 2017 and September 2018. Given that both hub carriers for these airports (Air France and Garuda Indonesia) are part of the SkyTeam alliance, it would seem fitting to have a connection between two of the group’s leading hubs. Along with Paris CDG, Frankfurt is the only other European destination to make the top 10 unserved markets.

Jakarta's top unserved markets

Source: OAG Traffic Analyser data.

In total, the top 10 markets that are not flown from Jakarta account for roughly 576,000 passengers a year, which is about 0.9% of the airport’s total traffic, with it having handled 65.89 million passengers in 2018. Other honourable mentions for routes to Jakarta include:

  • Busan – 41,370 passengers (between October 2017 and September 2018);
  • Brisbane – 39,170;
  • Milan Malpensa – 37,500;
  • Kuwait City – 37,280;
  • San Francisco – 34,840.

Guangzhou’s influence on Africa is crystal clear 

The leading unserved market from Guangzhou is Lagos, a market which accommodated close to 87,000 passengers between October 2017 and September 2018. Along with Lagos, a further two destinations (all highlighted in light green) are located in Africa. Guangzhou currently has direct flights to Addis Ababa, Cairo and Nairobi in Africa, courtesy of Ethiopian Airlines, EGYPTAIR and Kenya Airways. With airlines including Emirates and Qatar Airways seeing strong traffic flows to Africa via their hubs in the Middle East with African passengers accounting for over 30% of all traffic on their links to Guangzhou according to OAG Traffic Analyser data, it is a market that is looking for further development.

Guangzhou top 10 unserved routes

Source: OAG Traffic Analyser data.

Along with African routes which appear in the top 10, a further three sit just outside the rankings as stated below. Along with Africa, five of the routes in the top 10 are placed in Asia and the Middle East, two are in North America, while the top unserved market from Guangzhou in Europe is Milan Malpensa. Other honourable mentions for destinations that could support non-stop flights to Guangzhou include:

  • Dar es Salaam – 25,650 passengers (between October 2017 and September 2018);
  • Algiers – 25,540;
  • Khartoum – 25,320;
  • Surabaya – 24,020;
  • Manchester – 23,430.

Singapore’s South Korean desire to be served up soon 

Following Guangzhou, the next largest airport in Asia, based on available seat capacity, is Singapore. OAG Traffic Analyser data shows that the hub’s top unserved market during the period analysed was Busan (highlighted in light green), with 75,350 people flying between the two airports within the 12-month period between October 2017 and September 2018. However, from 1 May, SilkAir will begin a four times weekly service on the city pair. This will see Surakarta in Indonesia become Singapore’s next leading unserved market, followed by Tel Aviv and Toronto Pearson.

Singapore's top 10 unserved routes

Source: OAG Traffic Analyser data.

Along with Toronto, Vancouver completes the list of airports in North America which make it into Singapore’s top 10 unserved list, while four European airports (Geneva, Madrid, Dublin and Oslo Gardermoen) make the ranking. Other honourable mentions for routes which could support flights to Singapore include:

  • Vienna – 32,430 passengers (between October 2017 and September 2018);
  • Hamburg – 31,990;
  • Jeju – 31,650;
  • Brussels – 30,010;
  • Washington Dulles – 29,600.

Seoul Incheon’s hungry for Hungary 

The top unserved routes from Seoul Incheon are Melbourne, Zhangjiajie and Budapest. With a market size of close to 81,000 passengers a year, it means 111 PDEW are flying between Seoul and Melbourne, with Zhangjiajie seeing 95 PDEW and Budapest 71 PDEW. Along with Budapest, Berlin Tegel and Copenhagen complete the European representation in the top 10 ranking, while this is also the second top 10 list, after Shanghai, to not boast a North American destination. 

Seoul Incheon top 10 unserved routes

Source: OAG Traffic Analyser data.

Overall the top 10 routes presently not flown from Seoul Incheon equals 492,000 passengers a year, accounting for 0.7% of the airport’s total traffic. Other honourable mentions of routes which could be supported from the South Korean hub include:

  • Surabaya – 35,440 passengers (between October 2017 and September 2018);
  • Calgary – 34,950;
  • Geneva – 34,740;
  • Lisbon – 34,080;
  • Tehran Imam Khomeini – 32,830.

Bangkok – the world’s largest underserved O&D market? 

Bangkok appears to be the world’s largest underserved O&D market, with the top 10 routes that are currently not flown from the airport accounting for 1.23 million passengers per year. The top unserved route is Los Angeles, an airport pair accounting for close to a quarter of a million passengers a year. This transpires to 334 PDEW. In fact, the top six routes currently not flown from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi see 150 PDEW, all making them viable service possibilities.

Bangkok's top unserved markets

Source: OAG Traffic Analyser data.

What is clear from the airport’s top 10 unserved markets is the lack of direct services to Europe, with the continent accounting for seven of the top 10. The surge in visitor numbers to Thailand from the continent in recent years has been staggering, with the UK now seeing close to one million visitors to Thailand per annum, and Germany 900,000 according to data from the Thai Ministry of Tourism & Sports. Other honourable mentions for airports which could support a direct service to Bangkok include:

  • Chicago O’Hare – 69,400 passengers (between October 2017 and September 2018);
  • Barcelona – 67,890;
  • London Gatwick – 65,530;
  • Vancouver – 59,820;
  • Surabaya – 56,700. 

Delhi’s after a taste of Hollywood 

The top 10 markets from Delhi that are presently unserved account for 780,000 passenger per annum, with the top three destinations being Los Angeles, Denpasar and Auckland according to OAG Traffic Analyser data. Of the top 10 unserved markets, one – Manila (highlighted in light green) – will be served from 17 April, the day in which Philippine Airlines will begin a four times weekly service using its A321neos.

Delhi's top 10 unserved routes

Source: OAG Traffic Analyser data.

Of the top 10 unserved markets, two are from Europe (Barcelona and Brussels), three North America (Los Angeles, Seattle-Tacoma and Calgary), two in Oceania (Auckland and Brisbane) with the rest being in Asia itself. Other honourable mentions of destinations which just fall short of the top 10 include:

  • Manchester – 49,790 passengers (between October 2017 and September 2018);
  • Athens – 49,340;
  • Perth – 42,820;
  • Edmonton – 42,050;
  • Boston – 39,030.
All Nippon Airways, Vienna

There were celebrations in Vienna on 17 February as All Nippon Airways launched its new service from Tokyo Haneda. Julian Jäger, Joint CEO and COO of Vienna Airport; Kiyoshi Koinuma, Japanese Ambassador to Austria; and Akira Nakamura, Senior VP, EMEA, All Nippon Airways, took part in a traditional cake cutting ceremony to mark the occasion. Vienna was the 11th biggest unserved market from the Japanese airport, seeing a market size of over 26,000 indirect two-way passengers between October 2017 and September 2018. Barcelona is presently the top unserved market.


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