London Heathrow – New York JFK was the busiest European route in 2018

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The route between London Heathrow (LHR) and New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) has taken the crown as Europe’s busiest international scheduled service, research by Routesonline has found.

A total of 2,919,864 passengers boarded flights on the 5,550km journey between the two destinations in 2018, according to the latest data from Sabre Market Intelligence, representing a rise of 1.8 per cent compared with the previous 12 months.

Four airlines served the market last year, led by British Airways which commanded a 40.7 per cent share of all available seats on offer. Virgin Atlantic had a 28.5 per cent capacity share, American Airlines had a 20.6 per cent and Delta Air Lines had a 10.2 per cent.

The ascent of London Heathrow – New York John F Kennedy to the position as the busiest international route to/from and within Europe followed a 16.6 percent year-on-year decline in the number of passengers flying between London Heathrow and Dubai International (DXB).

Figures from Sabre show that 2,674,872 passengers flew non-stop between the UK’s busiest airport and United Arab Emirates city in 2018, down from 3,206,776 a year earlier. Five airlines served the market although two of them – Qantas Airways and Royal Brunei Airlines – ended service during the year.

Although Qantas continues to codeshare with Emirates on flights between Dubai and London, it ceased flying its own metal to Dubai in February 2018 after opting to reroute its Sydney – London Heathrow flight via Singapore. Royal Brunei Airlines ended operations to London Heathrow via Dubai in late October in favour of a direct flight to England’s capital city from its Brunei hub.

Completing the top three is the short 449km flight between London Heathrow and Dublin, the capital of Ireland. The route is a duopoly between Aer Lingus and British Airways, both owned by International Airlines Group, which had a 65 per cent and 35 per cent share of the market respectively.

In total, London Heathrow appears in eight of the top ten busiest international routes to/from and within Europe, underlining its position as a major global hub. Only Istanbul Atatürk (IST) – Tehran (IKA) in fourth and Paris (CDG) – New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) in ninth did not feature the UK airport.

The research has been released as 1,200 aviation professionals prepare to gather at Routes Europe 2019, taking place from 8-10 April in Hannover, Germany. The event, which will be attended by the likes of Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines, provides a meeting place for airlines, airports and tourism organisations to discuss new market opportunities and the evolution of existing services.

Routes brand director, Steven Small said: “European carriers’ international traffic climbed 6.6 percent in 2018, according to the latest IATA figures, while load factor increased to 85.0 percent, which was the highest for any region in the world.

“Although the industry is facing its challenges, there is much to be optimistic about. European airlines are expected to report a $7.4bn net profit in 2019 and we will also see new and exciting city pairs opening as aviation continues to be a key enabler of economic growth and prosperity.

“The conversations taking place at Routes Europe 2019 this week will lead to the creation of new air international routes, as well as frequency and capacity increases on services that are already popular with passengers.”

Top ten busiest international air routes to/from and within Europe in 2018:

RankRoutePassengers in 2018Passengers in 2017% change
1London Heathrow (LHR) – New York John F. Kennedy (JFK)291986428679641.8%
2London Heathrow (LHR) – Dubai International (DXB)26748723206776-16.6%
3London Heathrow (LHR) – Dublin (DUB)181013118015430.5%
4Istanbul Atatürk (IST) – Tehran (IKA)174524315879629.9%
5London Heathrow (LHR) – Amsterdam (AMS)172760816781512.9%
6London Heathrow (LHR) – Los Angeles (LAX)161567115668423.1%
7London Heathrow (LHR) – Singapore (SIN)1569001134991316.2%
8London Heathrow (LHR) – Hong Kong (HKG)15569681574680-1.1%
9Paris (CDG) – New York John F. Kennedy (JFK)154922715224961.8%
10London Heathrow (LHR) – Frankfurt International (FRA)154168014935123.2%