Top 10 largest unserved air routes in the world

Despite being one of the most well-networked countries in the world by flights, the United States has thousands of routes that do not have access to non-stop flights. New York JFK Airport and Los Angeles International Airport alone feature in five of the top 10 largest unserved routes around the globe.

With thousands of airlines offering air transport services across the globe, the world today is more connected than ever. But still, many routes do not have regular air service despite having high passenger traffic. Oftentimes, passengers on such routes travel indirectly, i.e., using at least one connection to reach their final destination. The world data specialists OAG has released the top 10 unserved routes- flight routes with the largest volume of people traveling indirectly between two points, based on passenger booking data for August 2021-July 2022. Let’s find out which airline routes are largely unserved in the world.

10. Newark Liberty-Guayaquil (EWR-GYE)

The airline route from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (GYE) is the tenth largest unserved sector in the world, where a total of 73,647 passengers made their journeys with a direct flight option during a period of 12 months from August 2021 to July 2022. The EWR-GYE connects the city of Newark to the capital of Guayas Province in Ecuador. Since we or South American carriers don’t offer non-stop flight options, passengers make their journey mostly with a one-stop connection at cities like New York, JFK, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, etc. Carriers like American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, COPA, etc., offer indirect service on the EWR-GYE route.

Terminal A of Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey to aircraft of Continental and JetBlue; unserved air routes
Terminal A of Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey to aircraft of Continental and JetBlue: Photo

9. Rome-San Francisco (FCO-SFO)

On the list of largest unserved routes in the world also comes a passenger route from Rome Fiumicino Airport (FCO) to San Francisco Airport (SFO). This origin and destination pair saw 75,219 passengers using at least one connection for their FCO-SFO trip. The FCO-SFO pair links the capital city of Italy, Rome, to San Francisco, the commercial and cultural capital of Northern California. Passengers undertaking this European-North American route can travel via connecting flights offered by carriers like Lufthansa, British Airways, WestJet, ITA, Air France, KLM, American Airlines, Air Canada, Tap Air Portugal, etc.

San Franciso Airport unserved air routes
An American Airlines airplane taxing at San Francisco Airport: Photo

8. Athens-Los Angeles (ATH-LAX)

Another largest unserved air route that had a total of 81,378 air traffic volume in 12 months (August 2021-July 2022) is the Athens-Los Angeles route. Travelers from Athens International Airport (ATH) to Los Angeles International Airport and vice versa will need connecting flights to travel between these two points as there is no direct air service. Airlines like Lufthansa, KLM, British Airways, Turkish Airlines, Air France, ITA, SWISS, United, Delta, American Airlines, etc., operate indirect air services on the ATH-LAX route.

Athens Airport unserved air routes
Terminal building of Athens Airport in Greece, In articles: unserved air routes; Photo

7. Mumbai-New York JFK (BOM-JFK)

The routing between India’s largest city, Mumbai (BOM), and the Big Apple, New York (JFK), is the seventh largest unserved passenger route in the world, with 81,716 passengers traveling indirectly in 12 months. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai is the second busiest airport in the country, offering direct connections across Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North America. The BOM-JFK route sees a lot of business travelers as both cities are technological hubs, not to mention VFR passengers, as New York has the largest concentration of Indian population in the country.

BOM-JFK unserved air routes
eautiful exteriors of Mumbai International airport during night also called Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport: In articles: unserved air routes; Photo

Carriers like British Airways, KLM, Emirates, Air India, Virgin Atlantic, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Air France, Lufthansa, Vistara, etc., fly indirectly on the BOM-JFK route. The good news is Air India is set to operate a direct flight from Mumbai Airport to JFK Airport from 1 February 2023. Air India flight AI119 will operate the BOM-JFK service, whereas AI116 will commence the JFK-BOM flight.

6. Toronto-Tehran Imam (YYZ-IKA)

A largely unserved market for Canada is Tehran, Iran, where 81,716 passengers flew indirectly between Toronto Lester B Pearson International Airport (YYZ) and Imam Khomeini International Airport in 12 months (August 2021-July 2022). The YYZ-IKA flight pair, connecting the capital of Ontario Province to the capital city of Iran, is the sixth largest unserved route in the world. Carriers such as Air Canada, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Emirates, etc., offer indirect flights between Toronto and Tehran. The flag carrier Air Canada connects flights on the YYZ-IKA sector in codeshare with other airlines like Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Kuwait Airways, etc.

YYZ-IKA unserved air routes
Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport. Entrance to departure hall. In articles: unserved air routes: DEPOSITPHOTOS.COM

5. Taipei Taiwan-Jeju (TPE-CJU) – Unserved Air Routes

Ranking fifth in the list is an Asian route connecting the capital of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the southern Korean city of Jeju. The passenger flight from Taipei Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) to Jeju International Airport (CJU) is the shortest route having the largest volume of travelers flying indirectly between two Asian cities. In 12 months, 82,590 passengers traveled on the TPE-CJU route, taking at least one connection to reach the final destination. Although the route is short and has enough passengers to potentially sustain a direct service, airlines haven’t considered flying non-stop between Taipei and Jeju yet.

TPE-CJU unserved air routes
Jeju Air is a low cost airline based in Jeju City, In articles: unserved air routes: Photo

Travelers can get connecting flights provided by Asiana Airlines, Korean Air, Eva Air, Tigerair Taiwan, etc., to travel from Taipei to Jeju.

4. Los Angeles-Yerevan (LAX-EVN) – Unserved Air Routes

The US destination of Los Angeles appears again in the largest unserved air routes list, but this time with the Armenian capital Yerevan. Los Angeles-Yerevan (LAX-EVN) is a flight route having the fourth largest volume of passengers traveling indirectly between these two points in 12 months. A total of 88,571 flyers indirectly traveled on the LAX-EVN route without direct regular flight service. The direct flight service between Los Angeles International Airport and Zvartnots International Airport will be instrumental in catering to the significant expatriate Armenian community in Los Angeles.

Egyptian AMC Airlines Boeing 737-500 taxiing at Zvartnots International Airport, In articles: unserved air routes: Photo

3. London Heathrow-Kathmandu (LHR-KTM) – Unserved Air Routes

The relationship between the UK and Nepal is not just limited to the military aspect. Apart from Gurkhas recruited into the British Army, many Nepalese go to the UK for study and work. Furthermore, London is the UK region with the largest Nepalese-born population. So, it is obvious that there is a large volume of passengers traveling between the capital cities of the UK and Nepal. Based on passenger booking data for a year, London Heathrow-Kathmandu is the third largest unserved route globally, with 89,222 passengers flying indirectly between these two cities. The LHR-KTM route undoubtedly serves the significant Gurkha community in London and international students and workers.

Tribhuvan International Airport in a beautiful blue sky. Photo

Nepalese traveling to London or the British coming to Nepal’s capital undertake their journey via connecting flights offered by Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways, flyDubai, Kuwait Airways, etc. Turkish Airlines offers a one-stop connection at Istanbul Airport before flying to Heathrow Airport. Qatar Airways customers flying from Kathmandu to London Heathrow will have a layover at Hamad International Airport, Doha. Similarly, Kuwait connects Tribhuvan International Airport to Heathrow Airport with a stopover at Kuwait International Airport. Likewise, FlyDubai also offers LHR-KTM service with a layover at Dubai International Airport.

2. Ho Chi Minh City-Los Angeles (SGN-LAX)

With an annual passenger volume of 90,031, the airline route from Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City to the US Los Angeles is the second largest unserved route devoid of direct air connection. Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) are busy airports in their respective countries, but they do not have direct air connections. Additionally, none of the carriers offer regular non-stop flights from Ho Chi Minh City to America except the state-owned Vietnam Airlines (flying to San Francisco).

Tan Son Nhat International Airport, In articles: unserved air routes Photo

Los Angeles hosts one of the largest Vietnamese-American populations in the country, so it seems fitting that a large number of people travel on the SGN-LAX route every year. Since there is no direct service, travelers fly from SGN Airport to LAX Airport with stopovers at Singapore, Narita, Incheon, San Francisco, Manila, etc., depending on the airlines there are flying with. Air companies such as Philippine Airlines, Vietnam Airlines, Korean Air, China Airlines, Eva Air, etc., operate indirect services in the SGN-LAX sector.

1. Quito-New York JFK (UIO-JFK)

The topmost origin/destination pair in terms of the world’s largest unserved airline routes between August 2021 to July 2022 when it came to the highest volume of air passengers traveling indirectly between two points is the corridor between Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Quito (UIO) and New York John F. Kennedy International Airport. According to the passenger booking data, the UIO-JFK pair had the largest number of passengers, i.e., 90,693 flying indirectly between two cities. Such passenger volume represents a large market for an airline, enough to potentially run a direct service.

Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Quito (UIO), In articles: unserved air routes : Photo

Due to lack of direct access, passengers must stop at airports like José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport, Brac Airport, Miami Airport, Atlanta Airport, Mexico City Airport, etc., depending on the airline they are flying with on the UIO-JFK route. Avianca Airlines, Aeromexico, LATAM, American Airlines, Delta, and JetBlue are some key carriers indirectly operating UIO-JFK service.

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