Tokyo’s top unserved routes; Barcelona largest, but not by fare

Tokyo’s top unserved routes; Barcelona largest, but not by fare

Combining both Narita and Haneda, Barcelona is Tokyo’s top unserved market by traffic. But Geneva is the highest by fare per kilometre. Which of these, or any of the others, may see the light of day?  Vote at the end of the article!

Barcelona is Tokyo’s top unserved route with almost 212,000 point-to-point passengers in 2019.  This is based on booking data via OAG Traffic Analyser.

It is followed by Las Vegas (133,000), Phuket (130,000), Orlando (106,000), and Siem Reap (103,000).

This article combines both Tokyo Narita and Haneda and looks at markets with at least 40,000 passengers.  There are 18 in all, excluding places like Sao Paulo that can’t be served non-stop.

Read more: Japan is a core connecting market for Lufthansa from Sao Paulo to Frankfurt.

In all, the 18 markets had just short of 1.5 million passengers last year. Nine are in Asia-Pacific (and mainly leisure/VFR), six in Europe, and three in North America.

Which do you think will be served?  Vote at the bottom of the article!

The 18 include markets that were not served in 2019 or – like Male – have since ended. 

Las Vegas was served: like most years, it had very time-limited non-stop service for the Consumer Electronics Show.  It is also likely to return when the in-person show resumes.  However, it is such a large market that it is worth including here.

Biman Bangladesh was expected to begin Dhaka – Tokyo in late 2019 but didn’t.  Tokyo remains one of the Bangladeshi capital’s strongest-performing unserved routes by fare per kilometre.

Five of these markets were operated in the past decade:

  • Thai Airways served Tokyo non-stop from Phuket on a year-round, non-stop basis until 2011, beginning/ending in Bangkok, mainly by B777-200ERs
  • Asia Atlantic Airways – remember them? – operated Siem Reap – Tokyo using B767-300ERs in October 2014 only; it started and ended in Bangkok
  • SriLankan operated Male – Tokyo until 2012, and then from July to October 2019 using A330-200s/300s
  • Alitalia served Tokyo from Venice continuously from April 2014 to October 2015 using B777-200ERs
  • Air New Zealand operated Christchurch – Tokyo for years until 2015, mainly using B777-200ERs
Tokyo’s top unserved routes; Barcelona largest, but not by fare

Tokyo’s largest unserved markets at city-pair level. Source: booking data via OAG Traffic Analyser.

Barcelona tops Tokyo traffic list, but Geneva #1 by fare per kilometre 

Geneva was by far Tokyo’s strongest unserved market by fare per kilometre as a result of strong premium demand.  It also had 76,000 point-to-point passengers.  Most traffic was inbound from the Japanese capital.

This strong performance was not particularly surprising given Geneva – and Zurich – are normally renowned for being high-yielding markets. 

All Nippon Airways or Japan Airlines using B787-8s could potentially do well.

Other strong markets with above-trend fare per kilometre are Kunming, Chiang Mai, Dhaka, Male, Phoenix, Berlin, and Las Vegas.

In contrast to Orlando, Las Vegas does well.  The Nevada city’s base fare was 19% higher than Orlando’s, while sector length was 24% shorter. 

Las Vegas’ fare was similar to that of Los Angeles and San Diego.

Tokyo’s top unserved routes; Barcelona largest, but not by fare

Fare per kilometre for these unserved markets is based on base fare only (excluding taxes and a 20-30% fuel surcharge each way). Green = routes that began in 2020 (or were meant to), or which are coming later in 2020 or in 2021. Dhaka is shown as it was meant to begin in December 2019. Those in green are shown for comparison. Source: booking data via OAG Traffic Analyser.

New routes provided for comparison

For comparison purposes, we have kept in new routes – all with over 40,000 passengers – that started in 2020 (or were meant to), or which are coming later in 2020 or in 2021.

These are: Bangalore, Kathmandu, Stockholm, and Tel Aviv.  All performed above or near the trendline.

All Nippon was to begin Haneda – Stockholm on 6 June using 184-seat B787-8s. However, it has been postponed.

El Al is to start Tel Aviv – Narita on 8 March 2021 on a three-weekly basis using 238-seat B787-8s.

Kathmandu was Tokyo’s fourth-largest unserved market in 2019 with 122,000 passengers.  Nepal Airlines started it in March 2020 using A330-200s.  

In July 2020, Japan Airlines was to begin a daily Tokyo Narita – Bangalore service using 186-seat B787-8s, but it has been postponed. With strong fare performance, a distance that isn’t too long, strong local traffic, and good connecting opportunities to North America, it’s not hard to see why it is coming.


  1. Siobhean says:

    The Spanish government have always pushed MAD instead of BCN. IB started MAD/NRT codeshare with JL which works well for both parties to connect to IB´s South American network. There probably isn´t enough premium traffic, onward cnx possibilities or star alliance support in BCN hence ANA hasn´t jumped on the bandwagon

    • James Pearson says:

      Hi Siobhean. I just looked into the average fares of TYO-MAD and TYO-BCN using booking data and surprisingly both are very similar: $649 for MAD and $684 for BCN. Both exclude fuel surcharges and government taxes. However, I fully agree about good connectivity over MAD to/from South America to supplement local traffic. I like these articles as they get people thinking about possibilities, even if routes don’t materialise.

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