On January 1, 1914, just a little more than a decade after the invention of the airplane in 1903 by the Wright Brothers, Tony Jannus sat at the cockpit of the world’s first commercial flight. Jannus piloted a two-seater Benoist XIV with his single passenger, auction winner and former St. Petersburg mayor Abram C. Pheil. Pheil paid $400, the equivalent of $5,000 in 2019, for his flight from St. Petersburg, FL to Tampa, which flew at an altitude of 15 feet in the open waters of the bay. Pheil would be far from the last to breathe in the marvel of human flight.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports that 2016 saw 3.8 billion air travelers, with projections set to double by 2035. The IATA attributes this continued boom to the spread of globalism with interlinked economies, as well as the necessity of travel alongside economic shifts in hot spots of air travel. It turns out that the world really is becoming a smaller place, a billion flights at a time.
The Sun Sets in the East
All of the world’s busiest flight lines are domestic, but from within the booming population of common flights, the overwhelming majority rise from the Asia-Pacific. From 2015-2016, China alone added 110 domestic flights, and the entire Asia-Pacific region accounted for 70 percent of the 100 busiest routes by passenger number. The major source of increased airfare has been a result of the growth of the middle class in China and surrounding nations. While the size of China’s middle class is still proportionally smaller than further developed economies, the sheer numbers have translated into domination of commercial airways.
The Sky’s Loving Embrace
Despite China’s booming middle class, it isn’t a domestic Chinese flight that takes the cake for most traveled. Rather, that title is bestowed upon the Korean domestic flight from Seoul to Jeju, an island off the coast of South Korea that's deemed the “Korean Hawaii.” Korea’s Hawaii is known for beach resorts, volcanic landscapes, and its Love Land theme park.
In the 1970s, Cold War restrictions prevented the Korean populace from extensive international travel. As such, Jeju became one of the only destinations outside of the Korean Peninsula accessible to newlyweds. Young and fumbling through the motions of arranged marriages, many retreated to hotels that employed professional ice breakers to help relax the nervous crowds and facilitate mingling. From within the climate of Jeju emerged Love Land, an erotic theme park with openly available sex education – part public service, part booming enterprise.
The Seoul to Jeju airway saw a sum total of 65,967 flights for 13.4 million passengers, approximately 180 flights daily – that's quite a few Love Land tickets!
In second place, the only non-Asian nation on the top 10 list of most frequently flown routes is the domestic trip from Melbourne to Syndey, Australia; 2017 saw 54,209 flights carrying 9 million passengers. Given the 8-hour drive across the outback to travel between Australia’s urban centers, it’s perhaps no wonder that many opt to fly. Taking domestic flight out of the equation, Asia-Pacific still takes the gold with the Hong Kong-Taeipei flight transporting over 6.7 million passengers in 2017. The full list of busy flights, as reported by The Independent, is as follows:
- Jeju – Seoul Gimpo: 13,460,306 passengers
- Melbourne – Sydney Kingsford Smith: 9,090,941 passengers
- Sapporo – Tokyo Haneda: 8,726,502 passengers
- Fukuoka – Tokyo Haneda: 7,864,000 passengers
- Mumbai – Delhi: 7,129,943 passengers
- Beijing Capital – Shanghai Hongqiao: 6,833,684 passengers
- Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh City: 6,769,823 passengers
- Hong Kong – Taiwan Taoyuan: 6,719,030 passengers
- Jakarta – Juanda Surabaya: 5,271,304 passengers
- Tokyo Haneda – Okinawa: 5,269,481 passengers