Simon Calder: A short hop from Seoul, budget flights in Europe, and a billion passengers in Asia

The man who pays his way

A short hop from Seoul, but a giant in aviation terms

Sunday afternoon in spring on Jeju Island, off the south coast of mainland Korea, is a delight. You can wander from flower-strewn gardens to silvery beach, hike along the rockier parts of the corrugated coastline or bike across the hills and far away.

Around every corner you find a new photo opportunity, usually complete with a couple of happy honeymooners in the foreground: the isle is prime territory for Korean newlyweds.

At the end of your stay, though, be careful how you leave. If you seek solitude, depart the island by ship rather than air – because Jeju airport is at one end of the world's busiest air route.

Amadeus, one of the giants in aviation reservation systems, has been crunching some mighty numbers. Its business is to know who flies where. Last year, 2.5 billion people stepped aboard a flight. An easier way to understand figures of that magnitude is to calculate that an average of every two seconds, a flight departs from somewhere on the planet, with around 150 people on board. But where are they going? Amadeus revealed the world's top 10 air links in terms of passenger numbers. And only one city-pair tops 10 million passengers a year – as you might discover at Jeju airport.

Missed the 1pm Korean Air departure from the island to Seoul? There's another one in 20 minutes and a third half-an-hour after that. And forget narrow-bodied planes such as Airbus A320s and Boeing 737s; they are all 747 Jumbo jets. Asiana, Eastar and Jinair also offer dozens of daily departures. It is as though London and Belfast were connected by 100 flights a day, many of them wide-bodied aircraft.

Another way to look at this record-breaking route: Jeju handles more passengers on a single route to Seoul than most UK airports manage for all their destinations combined; Stansted, Manchester, Gatwick and Heathrow are the only British airports to exceed 10 million passengers a year.

Asia set for a billion passengers by 2015

Anyone who believes that Europe and North America rule the airline roost may be startled to find that no route from London, Paris, Frankfurt or New York makes the Amadeus Top 10.

Four of the top routes start at Tokyo – to Sapporo, Fukuoka, Osaka and Okinawa (itself a holiday island for the Japanese, analogous to Jeju for the Koreans). Brazil, South Africa and Australia are the other premier-league nations. Four more routes connect the two biggest cities in large countries: Beijing-Shanghai, Cape Town-Johannesburg, Rio-Sao Paulo and Sydney-Melbourne. Only one route in the top 10 is international, from Hong Kong to Taiwan (though some will say this is really "Greater China").

Asia is now the unchallenged leader in aviation, with 787 million journeys last year. If the present rate of increase continues, the one-billion passenger figure will be overtaken in 2015. In contrast, Africa has barely 50 million passengers – and on a single day more people board at an Asian airport than in a fortnight at African airports. That Cape Town-Johannesburg makes the top 10 busiest routes worldwide is a reflection of the absence of a high-speed rail link; London-Paris used to be the busiest international air route in the world, until the Channel Tunnel opened and the market collapsed.

One in six passengers from Europe to Asia and Australasia last year travelled via Dubai, Doha or Abu Dhabi – and traffic through these Middle Eastern hubs is growing at 20 per cent annually. Is the game up, then, for Asian long-haul airlines hoping to fly Brits to and beyond their hubs? Not at all: Cathay Pacific plans a fifth daily flight between Heathrow and Hong Kong from June and Singapore Airlines is to add a fourth departure in the autumn.

Europe still rules on budget flights

Europe tops the charts in terms of no-frills airlines: two out of five journeys are made on low-cost carriers, a higher proportion than anywhere else. But as the likes of easyJet, Ryanair and Norwegian expand, it gets more and more difficult to identify routes on which money can be made.

Could Vueling, the Spanish budget airline, have found the link that represents the scraping of the barrel? From June, it will fly from Barcelona – the second city in Spain – to Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

You have to be dedicated, or perhaps desperate, to get the flight – it leaves the Catalan capital at 1am, return from Minsk is at 6am. But not daily: the service operates only on Sunday morning, so if you miss it you'll have a week to wait. Which is a very long time in Belarus, if not on Jeju Island.

Simon Calder

The man who pays his way

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins wins the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Sacha Baron Cohen is definitely not involved in the Freddie Mercury biopic, Brian May has confirmed
film
News
(David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
News
news
News
Boyband star Brian Harvey is on benefits and on the verge of homelessness
people
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor