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Airlines around the world experienced a major growth spurt in 2016, with a total of 3,042 new routes launched. According to Anna Aero, this nearly matches the growth rate of 2015, when 3,109 new routes were added.

Europe’s low-cost carriers led the way for route expansion in 2016, as 13 of the top 20 growing airlines are based on the continent. Ryanair topped the list, having added 200 new routes. EasyJet and Wizz Air added 206 and 100 new routes, respectively, while Vueling added 76 new routes to its network.

Among US airlines, low-cost carriers also experienced the most expansion in 2016. Frontier Airlines added 84 routes, coming in fourth place among all carriers worldwide. Meanwhile, Allegiant Air added 75 flights; Southwest Airlines added 43; and Spirit Airlines added 29. Legacy carriers did not see the same degree of expansion last year; American Airlines added 68 routes, while Delta Air Lines added 35 new routes. United Airlines added only 26 routes to its network, of which only eight are international.

But while domestic growth was limited, the US was the fastest-growing nation for airline routes in the world. In 2016, airlines added 916 routes to American airports, more than double the number of flights added to any other nation. Spain came in second, with 395 flights added, while Germany and the UK nearly tied for third in growth, with both nations adding over 350 connecting routes to their airports. China, France and Italy each also added more than 200 flights.

In 2016 we saw airlines compete over the distinction of having the world’s longest route, as well as expansion into once-forbidden areas. In March, Emirates launched service between Auckland, New Zealand and Dubai, covering more than 8,000 miles to claim the title of “World’s Longest Flight.” In October, Singapore Airlines relaunched service between San Francisco and its home city-state, just a few months after United’s launched its own Singapore nonstop. Regular service to Cuba from the United States was also reinstated in 2016, with five airlines launching service to the once fully embargoed island during the year.

Although 2016 experienced relatively normal growth in the airline industry, 2017 could be a year of major expansion for international air carriers. Analysis by Anna Aero suggests 1,150 new routes have already been announced for this year, with an additional 2,000 projected to be added by the end of 2017.

A similar report outlining canceled air routes was not available from Anna Aero or other aviation statistical databases.

Featured image courtesy of Monty Rakusen via Getty Images.

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