• Air shuttle: More than an airport connection

You may be familiar with the term «airlift», but perhaps you don’t know exactly what it is, which was the first one and which are the most important in the world.

An air shuttle is a line with a high volume of passengers between two airports. To satisfy all these passengers, it has a specific timetable and a high frequency of flights.

And now, do you want to know some interesting facts about airlifts?

Then come with us and discover them in this post.

Which country was the first?

To give you the answer to this question we have to go back to two days before the start of the Spanish Civil War.

If you didn’t know, there were many Spanish soldiers in the Moroccan Protectorate. The soldiers who started the war needed reinforcements and proposed to their superiors the use of aircraft to move those soldiers stationed in Africa to the peninsula.

The idea was immediately accepted by their superiors, and three Fokker F-VII 3M aircraft began making trips between Tetuan and Seville.

In one week, more than 960 legionnaires were transported via this air shuttle, which was a great achievement at that time.

Another pioneering air shuttle

True, the previous air shuttle was military, and for a very specific reason. The pioneer, in commercial aviation, was the Rio de Janeiro – São Paulo airlift.

This Brazilian airlift was indeed created in 1959 for the busiest flight in Brazil, which was between São Paulo and Rio. It was created to further stimulate traffic between the two cities.

Following its creation, many other airports adopted air bridges as a means of connecting cities.

One of the most important airlifts in Europe

Spain has one of the most influential airlifts in Europe, linking Madrid and Barcelona. This connection stands out as the second busiest in Europe.

On the 2nd of November 1974, the Mayor of Barcelona and the President of Iberia, Jesús Romero Gorría, signed the creation of the airlift with a hug.

That same year, the airlift made its debut with more than 28 flights a week, with more than 3,200 seats in total.

The success of this connection materialised much more a few decades later, in 2006, when it became the regular airline with the most passengers in the world.

The road to success

As we have explained, the Madrid-Barcelona shuttle has come to offer 25 daily flights in each direction. For this reason, Iberia considers that this has been one of the best projects in its history.

And with good reason! The 2.5 million passengers who used this air bridge in 2019 endorse it. It seems impossible, but it is estimated that, since 1974, some 60 million passengers have used this air bridge.

Behind the success, there is a lot of work on the part of AENA and the airline. The creation of special check-in areas, the possibility of buying tickets directly at the airport, the high frequency of flights at peak times and the recent option of booking parking from your own mobile phone have had a positive impact on the project.

In addition, Renfe’s offer has become very competitive in recent years. Despite this, airlines have been able to adjust their fares and be a highly sought-after option for users.

  • Aircraft landing at an european airport

Other relevant airport connections

The Asian continent is unrivalled when it comes to air routes. In addition to the air connections with the most travellers, Asia also has the famous “golden rectangle”: Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

But we are not only going to talk about Asian airports. There are others that stand out worldwide in terms of passenger volume:

Mumbai-New Delhi

This is one of India’s busiest airlifts per year – isn’t it amazing that there are 45,188 flights? And only six airlines handle that volume of flights.

São Paulo-Rio de Janeiro

In Latin America, the airlift with the highest passenger volume is between Congonhas and Santos Dumont airports.

As we have already mentioned, it began operating in 1959, making it the oldest commercial airlift in the world.

And as if that were not enough, it is also the most expensive. A return flight costs an average of 980 Brazilian reals, equivalent to around €186.


This is the busiest airlift in Europe, and this is due to the poor rail connection between the two cities.

While the train connection between Paris and Toulouse takes just over 5 hours, it takes just one hour by plane.


If we were talking about city-to-city connections, this would be the largest route in Europe, with some 4.5 million passengers a year. The difference is that London has 5 airports, so that number of passengers is split between them.

The same is true for the London-Amsterdam route, which handles just over 4 million passengers a year.


But here comes the best part! When it comes to air bridges, there is none quite like Jeju-Seoul in South Korea. In terms of airport connections, this airlift is the busiest in the world with 79,460 flights per year.

  • Passenger walking at the airport to take a flight

More than connections in the sky

These routes not only facilitate economic collaboration between cities, but also link countries and citizens, far beyond their own borders.

We hope this article has helped you learn a little more about air bridges. You can now say that you know what they are, how they work and a few other interesting facts.

If aviation is your thing, and you want to continue learning more, we recommend that you take a look at our aviation blog, where we explain everything from how aircraft landing gear works to how to use a radio in flight.

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