Air Travel Statistics 2023

Where did we go, how far did we travel and which airports did we frequent this year? As the leading data platform for the global travel industry, OAG has the inside scoop on the most popular travel locations, the airlines going furthest, the airports expanding their routes and much more. We've run the numbers for 2023 to share with you some vital aviation industry statistics.


Busiest day count

In 2023, the busiest day for airlines was Friday August 11th, when airlines operated 18,586,233 seats. For context, the average daily capacity over the year was 16,582,222, making this peak summer day 12% busier than the average travel day.

Quietest day count-1

Conversely, the quietest day to travel by air is the third Saturday of the year, at least based on 2023's data. 13,967,001 seats operated on January 21st, making the day 16% less busy than the average for airline operators.

Which were the most popular destinations in 2023?

The top airline route based on Available Seat Kilometers (ASKs) is New York JFK to London Heathrow. Heathrow features in 4 out of the top 10 routes by ASK:

  • New York JFK - London Heathrow, 21,471,979,424 ASKs
  • London Heathrow - Singapore 19,460,546,436 ASKs
  • LAX - London Heathrow, 19,179,264,984 ASKs
  • Dubai - London Heathrow, 16,349,249,847 ASKs

Singapore's strong results this year are reflected in the fact that London Heathrow - Singapore Changi Airport is the second ranked route on the list, while the recovery of the USA market means that 6/10 of the routes include at least one US destination:

  • New York JFK - London Heathrow, 21,471,979,424 ASKs
  • LAX - London Heathrow, 19,179,264,984 ASKs
  • LAX - Taiwan, 12,938,927,648 ASKs
  • San Francisco - Taiwan, 12,912,318,601 ASKs
  • New York JFK - LAX, 12,875,821,884 ASKs
  • Seoul Incheon - LAX, 12,754,317,014 ASKs

In addition to the most popular routes, we can also reveal the longest and shortest international flight routes.

Starting with the shortest flight route of 2023 is a twice-weekly flight operated by Air Kiribati. The flight from Tarawa (TRW) to Abaiang (ABF) in Kiribati, in the Northern Gilbert Islands, is just 26 nautical miles with a flight time of 15 minutes, and serves as a lifeline service for residents of both islands. 

The world's longest flight this year was Singapore Changi to New York JFK, coming in at 8,279 nautical miles and operated daily by Singapore Airlines. You can learn more about this route and explore the rest of the top 10 longest commercial flights in our blog.

Which airlines were most popular?

The largest airline in the world in 2023 was Southwest, with 619 billion ASKs. The carrier operated 9% more ASKs than its closest rival for the top spot, American Airlines.

The fastest growing airline of the year is Cathay Pacific, which saw the highest percentage increase in flights 2023 v 2022. The number of flights is up by 137% from 31,661 flights in 2022 to 75,161  in 2023. That said, there is still some way to go toward recovery and by the end of 2023, Cathay's flights are still 28% below 2019 levels. 

How is the aviation industry's pandemic recovery progressing?

Total global capacity for the year has not quite recovered to the levels seen pre-pandemic (it's expected to finish up at 5.5bn, which will be 3.7% down on 2019), but strides were made in 2023 as those countries still maintaining travel restrictions through 2022 started to ease the rules. 

When it comes to airlines, the most recovered when compared to pre-pandemic flights is Southern Airways Express, a small US commuter airline based out of Memphis. This year it operated 156% of it's 2019 flight lever, with 86,000 flights scheduled in 2023, equivalent to 235 flights per day. To give this number context, Southwest Airlines, the biggest airline in the world in terms of flights, operates 6,250 daily flights. 

The most recovered airport of the top 100 largest airports by seat volume was Bogata, Colombia's largest airport, where capacity for 2023 is 16% above the level of 2019.

Shanghai Airport (PVG) has added the most routes of any airport this year compared to last year, a reflection of China's gradual re-opening to the world. In 2019 there were 236 routes, dipping to 185 in 2022. In 2023 54 routes were added, bringing the total to 239, above pre-pandemic levels.

The overall theme of this year's airline data is one of growth and recovery, and while we hope soon to be in a position to stop comparing to 2019, the data will always tell a story. Make sure you don't miss a chapter by subscribing to our blog alerts, below.

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