Billion Dollar Route - Jewels in The Network

Airline networks, a mix of destinations, some routes operating with high daily frequency and others with once a day service. For every airline there are a small selection of lucrative routes where either competitive advantage, market circumstances or limited competition make for very attractive revenues; they are the routes that are “protected” at all costs.

For 2019 we’ve analysed the data and revenues to reveal what are the highest revenue generating routes around the globe for some of the world’s largest airlines. And which routes generate the highest revenue per hour.

It’s an interesting list of routes and airlines.

Heathrow – JFK Is the Billion Dollar Route

British Airways, Heathrow – JFK New York service retains its number one position with some US$1.15 Billion of revenue making it the only route to break that barrier and actually reporting an increased revenue per hour of some 10% which will keep the accountants happy. With over 30% of BA seats on the route in either First or Business Class the importance and the value of the route is clear to see.

Whilst the top ten routes and airlines this year are unchanged which highlights both how valuable and incontestable some of these are in terms of size and scale. Analysis of the data on a revenue per hour basis this year does reveal some wide variations, amongst the top 10 revenue routes, LHR – JFK is some US$27,159 per hour is highest whilst an increasingly competitive YYZ – YVR market and low-cost competition probably accounts in part for only US$11,936 per hour for Air Canada.

Interestingly on a revenue per hour basis nine of the top ten routes have seen a reduction suggesting that perhaps the levels of competition both directly from other airlines and indirect routes.

The linkage between available capacity and revenue is perhaps best highlighted by five of the top ten routes operating from Heathrow which in part explains why long-haul airlines rush to fill available slots and existing carriers protect their networks. Equally half of the top ten routes are operated by oneWorld Alliance members with no Skyteam Alliance member route featuring.

Table 1 – Top Ten Highest Revenue Routes by Airline, April 2018 – March 2019


New York Dominates North American Stars

Seven of the top ten revenue routes to and from North America include New York with JFK appearing in half of the top ten and Newark in two.

Transcontinental routes dominate the domestic services in the top ten with LAX – JFK appearing twice in the table for both American and Delta Air Lines although American appear to be generating a little bit more revenue per hour on their services.

The relatively short sector length between Heathrow and Boston results in that route providing a higher revenue value per hour for British Airways than their JFK service whilst the Air France CDG – JFK service ranks sixth in the top ten.

Table 2  - North America, Top Ten Highest Revenue Routes by Airline, April 2018 – March 2019


Asia’s Ribbon Routes Deliver, Singapore – Jakarta Ranks Number One per Hour Flown

Despite rapid low-cost airline growth in Asia the top ten routes to and from Asia highlight how a scarcity of competing capacity at some airports can provide rich pickings for established airlines on selected routes. With Hong Kong, Heathrow, Sydney, Haneda and Jakarta appearing in eight of the top ten routes operating the case for more airport capacity in Asia would appear compelling from a competition perspective.

Disproving the theory that only long-haul flights can generate significant revenues the Singapore – Jakarta service of Singapore Airline is the highest revenue producer in the world based on hours flow; generating nearly US$39,000 per hour flown; well ahead of routes such as Heathrow – JFK.

Increasing competition and low-cost airline developments are clearly impacting the revenue per hour for Japan Air Lines on their Tokyo Haneda – Okinawa service where the revenue has significantly declined year on year. Nevertheless, a route that is contributing US$ 19,630 per hour is very valuable to any airline.

Table 3 - Asia, Top Ten Highest Revenue Routes by Airline, April 2018 – March 2019


Ultimately of course, revenue alone is just a metric and for many of these routes high frequency wide-bodied services means high operating costs. However, it is equally likely that for each of these airlines operating profits are amongst the highest on their respective networks. Our analysis suggests that there is unlikely to be any great movement either in or out of these tables in the next few years until capacity becomes available and then of course at both ends of the route which for many of these airlines will ensure their status for some time.