Australia has two of the world’s busiest flight routes

Air traffic data company OAG has released a new ranking of the busiest domestic air routes in the world, based on the number of flights between March 2018 and February 2019.

Jeju to Seoul, South Korea, was named as the world’s busiest domestic route, with more than 79,000 flights during those 12 months.

Melbourne to Sydney was the second-busiest route, with 54,102 flights in a year. The Brisbane to Sydney route was ranked at 12, with 33,443 flights.

The new data comes amid claims Sydney Airport’s air traffic controllers are overworked and at “breaking point”, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report.

Data obtained by the Herald found controllers in Sydney Airport’s control tower and radar control centre worked an average of 140 hours overtime each last year — about four weeks of overtime for the year.

A Sydney Tower controller who spoke to the Herald anonymously said the amount of overtime staff were expected to work was “crazy”.

Sydney is on two of the world’s top 12 busiest domestic air routes. Picture: iStockSource:istock

“It’s a vicious cycle,” the controller said. “People are tired and working so hard that you get sick, because you’re overworked and you’re stressed.”

The Herald reported figures showing 14 instances of delayed or cancelled flights in 2018 due to a shortage of air traffic controllers.

On October 7 last year, 26 flights were cancelled when two controllers called in sick.

Three controllers called in sick on January 18 this year, leading to 39 flights being cancelled.

In a statement to Airservices Australia said it had “more staff than required” to safety run Sydney Tower but it faced “workforce availability issues due to unforeseen events including illness and family emergencies”.

Our tower controllers are closely monitored and regulated and at no stage has there been a reduction in safety levels due to overtime,” the statement said.

“Due to factors beyond our control, Sydney Tower has experienced a range of issues that has affected staff availability. This has resulted in an increase in overtime.

“On average, our controllers have worked the hours of overtime per week in Sydney Tower.

We are working to minimise overtime in Sydney Tower.”

Airservices Australia, which is responsible for managing Australia’s air space, has been contacted for comment.

A spokeswoman for the government-owned corporation told the Herald it had more than enough staff to run Sydney Airport safely but it faced “workforce availability issues” due to illness and family emergencies.

“Due to factors beyond our control, Sydney Tower has experienced a range of issues that has affected staff availability,” the spokeswoman said. “This has resulted in an increase in overtime.”

This year Airservices Australia went on a recruitment drive for air traffic controllers, a job that pays more than $140,000 a year on average, and entered Australia’s top 10 earners pool in 2018.

Starting salaries for graduate roles in the high-pressure job start at $99,898 with controllers earning $141,795 a year on average.

There’s a tough test candidates need to pass, and only about three per cent finish the document correctly.

Crowds wait in as flights are disrupted due to a shortage of air traffic control staff at Sydney airport in October 2018. Picture: Luke Drew

Crowds wait in as flights are disrupted due to a shortage of air traffic control staff at Sydney airport in October 2018. Picture: Luke DrewSource:News Corp Australia

The OAG report on global flight routes found the Sydney-Melbourne air route was dominated by Qantas flights (44 per cent of all flights), followed by Virgin Australia (33 per cent) and Tigerair Australia and Jetstar (12 per cent and 11 per cent).

The congestion of the Sydney-Melbourne air corridor has been given as a reason for why a high-speed rail network on Australia’s east coast should be considered between the two capitals.

Australia joined countries on the list with significantly larger populations, including South Korea, India, Brazil, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia and the United States.

A separate ranking of the world’s busiest international routes put Kuala Lumpur to Singapore as number one, with more than 30,000 flights on that route each year.


1. Jeju-Seoul, South Korea: 79,460 flights in a year

2. Melbourne-Sydney, Australia: 54,102

3. Mumbai-Delhi, India: 45,188

4. Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 39,747

5. Fukuoka to Tokyo, Japan: 39,406

6. Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: 39,291

7. Sapporo to Tokyo, Japan: 39,271

8. Jakarta to Surabaya, Indonesia: 37,762

9. Los Angeles to San Francisco, USA: 35,365

10. Jeddah to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: 35,149


1. Kuala Lumpur to Singapore: 30,187

2. Hong Kong to Taipei: 28,447

3. Jakarta to Singapore: 27,046

4. Hong Kong to Shanghai: 20,678

5. Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur: 19,741

6. Seoul to Osaka: 19,711

7. New York (La Guardia) to Toronto: 17,038

8. Hong Kong to Seoul: 15,770

9. Bangkok to Singapore: 14,698

10. Dubai to Kuwait City: 14,581.

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