Shanghai rises to become world’s most connected city

Shanghai skyline at dusk.

Shanghai has dethroned London to become the world’s most connected city as the coronavirus shakes up international travel. London has seen a 67% fall in connectivity in air travel, according to airline industry body IATA, Shanghai has risen up the ranks, and the world’s four most connected cities are now all in China.

IATA says the pandemic has “undone a century of progress” for connectivity between cities. “The dramatic shift demonstrates the scale at which the world’s connectivity has been re-ordered over the last months,” said Sebastian Mikosz, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Large transport hubs including London, New York and Tokyo have been hit hard by the dramatic reduction in flights in and out of their cities. “There are no winners, just some players that suffered fewer injuries. In a short period of time we have undone a century of progress in bringing people together and connecting markets,” he added. Air travel within China has broadly recovered and during it’s Golden Week holiday season 425 million people travelled around the country, according to the Chinese tourism ministry.

China has also been gradually opening up travel corridors and discussing quarantine-free travel agreements with a number of countries including Japan and Singapore. The top four most connected cities in the world are now Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Chengdu. Earlier this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for a “global mechanism” that would use QR codes to open up international travel, but the rest of Asia hasn’t fared so well. Thailand’s capital Bangkok and Hong Kong have both seen a steep 81% drop in connectivity.

IATA’s air connectivity index measures how well connected a country’s cities are to other cities around the world, which is critical for trade, tourism, investment and their economies. The organisation estimates that 46 million jobs supported by air transport are in peril. Over the last two decades the number of cities directly linked by air has more than doubled while travel costs have fallen significantly. “Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the growth in air connectivity was a global success story,” added Mr Mikosz.

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