Airline connectivity

Shaking up the rankings of the world’s most connected cities

Shanghai is now the top ranked city in the world for air connectivity, and the top four most connected cities are now all in China. We bring you highlights from a new study by the International Air Transport Association that reflects the turbulence caused by the global pandemic.

The COVID-19 crisis has reshaped the rankings of the world’s most connected cities, with the top four – Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu – now all in China. That’s according to a new report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The airlines association has released data about the pandemic’s impact on international connectivity.

  • London, the world’s number one most connected city in September 2019, has seen a -67% decline in connectivity. By September 2020, it had fallen to number eight.
  • Shanghai is now the top ranked city for connectivity following the recovery of the Chinese domestic market.
  • New York (-66% fall in connectivity), Tokyo (-65%), Bangkok (-81%), Hong Kong (-81%) and Seoul (-69%) have all exited the top ten.
  • The study reveals that cities with large numbers of domestic connections now dominate, showing the extent to which international connectivity has been shut down.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the growth in air connectivity was “a global success story,” said IATA. Over the last two decades the number of cities directly linked by air (city-pair connections) more than doubled. It produced economic benefits in the flow of goods, people, capital, technology and ideas – and led to falling air transport costs.

The ten most connected countries in the world saw significant increases over the 2014-2019 period. The USA remained the most connected, with growth of +26%. China, in second place, grew connectivity by +62%. Other standout performers in the top ten included fourth-place India (+89%) and ninth place Thailand (+62%).

But 2020 has seen connectivity disrupted significantly across the globe as governments introduced travel restrictions. As a result of border closures and domestic lockdowns, the number of unique city pairs connected by regular service has reduced dramatically.

Top ten city-pair connections worldwide, September 2020

Global and regional flight departures

Weekly flights, YoY change 2020 vs 2019

Source: IATA Economics analysis based on data provided under license by FlightRadar 24.

IATA notes: “At the lowest point in April, the number of unique city pairs connected by regular air service declined by -65% relative to the same period last year, with less than 7,000 city-pair connections remaining.

“As of the end of October, the number of unique city-pairs was -36% lower than its level of at the beginning of this year and we do not expect connectivity to recover in the remaining part of the year. Hence, unique city-pair connectivity will decline for the first time since the global financial crisis. There is also a risk that the number of unique city-pair connections will not fully recover, undoing some of the gains of recent years.”

*Click here for the full report.

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The Moodie Davitt eZine Issue 287 | 30 November 2020

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 15 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd). © All material is copyright and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the Publisher. To find out more visit and to subscribe, please e-mail

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