Giants: The Biggest Airports in the World

There are more than a thousand civil airports in the world. Some are small and easy to navigate. Others you dread for their long lines and connection times. But the biggest airports in the world can often be pieces of beauty which offer plenty of entertainment to passengers.

In the list below we have ranked the biggest airports in the world. We also have a separate article ranking the busiest airports in the world, so make sure you check it.

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Which are the biggest airports in the world?

One in Africa, 3 in Asia, five in the US and one in Europe. Prepare for your journey among the world’s airports with the largest area.

Perhaps because of its massive size, King Fahd can look desolate sometimes.

#1 King Fahd International Airport (DMM)

With a total area of 780 square kilometers, The King Fahd International Airport, located 20km away from Dammam in the area between Qatif and Dammam, Saudi Arabia tops the list of the 10 largest airports in the world by size.

The airport’s total area exceeds that of the country of Bahrain!

Most of the property, however, is not put into use. In fact, only 37 square kilometers are dedicated for airport usage. That is only about 5%! The elevation of the airport is 22m.

It is not particularly busy either. It handles about 10 million passengers a year.

The airport was opened to commercial traffic on 28 November 1999, as it was first used for military purposes. King Fahd International Airport is the main hub for Saudia(Saudi Arabian Airlines), SaudiGulf Airlines, Flynas and Aramco Aviation.

Denver International is the biggest airport in the USA and one of the busiest.

#2 Denver International Airport (DIA)

With its 136 square kilometers Denver International Airport ranks as the second biggest airport in the world and is the largest airport in the US. It is bigger than the island of Manhattan! DIA is also the fifth-busiest airport in America with service to 205 destinations on five continents.

Denver International is a hub for United Airlines and Frontier and a base for Southwest Airlines.

DIA faced a lot of criticism when it opened in 1995, more than a year behind schedule. It cost an additional $3.3 billion (in today’s US dollars) than anticipated and some of its long-awaited innovative technologies were dysfunctional and later abandoned.

Denver International is perched at 1,655 m above sea-level. This is part of the reason why DIA sports the longest runway in the United States. It is nearly 5 km long! The extra length helps flights take off in the lower-pressure conditions of Colorado.

American Airlines' main hub is located in Dallas-Fort Worth.

#3 Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

Despite coming in third in the list of the largest airports by area, DFW is almost half the size of Denver International Airport (ranked second) and 11 times smaller than King Fahd International Airport. DFW is located at an elevation of 185 meters and covers an area of 70 square kilometers.

Dallas-Fort Worth is the largest American Airlines hub, which in turn is the largest airline in the world in terms of fleet size. This makes DFW the second-largest hub in the world after Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta. American Airlines operates nearly 70% of all flights to and from DFW.

While Dallas-Fort Worth may be much smaller than the two biggest airports, it is still so big, it even has its own ZIP code and Postal Service city designation.

DFW was ranked 56th in Skytrax’s Top 100 Airports for 2018.

#4 Orlando International Airport (MCO)

Orlando International, the fourth largest airport worldwide, used to be an Airforce base until the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Since then, it has been transformed to a civil-only airport and today is the third biggest airport in the US.

Located at an elevation of 29 meters, the airport occupies an area of 46.98 square kilometers.

With 27% of passengers on their services, Southwest has by far the largest market share at MCO, almost as much as Delta and American Airlines combined.

The airport is the main hub for Silver Airways and is a focus city for JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines etc.

Washington Dulles is not only one of the largest airports by size, but also one of the most elegant.

#5 Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)

Washington Dulles is the largest airport in the Baltimore-DC area but also the least busy. The airport spans 52 square kilometers.

The airport was officially inaugurated in 1962 by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower and received plenty of praise for its light and graceful architecture.

Initially, the airport’s code was DIA. This often caused confusion as Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport’s code, only a few miles away, was DCA. Thus, especially when handwritten, these designations were a source of a lot of confusion. Hence Dulles took IAD and Denver International later became DIA.

Together with Newark Airport, Washington Dulles is one of United Airlines’ two hubs on the East Coast. United accommodates 61.1% of all passengers on IAD. Many of them travel to the over 125 international destinations served by Washington Dulles.

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#6 George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

Formerly known as Houston Intercontinental Airport, IAH spans just over 40 square kilometers, which makes it the fifth largest airport in the United States and the sixth biggest in the world. It is named after George H. W. Bush, America’s 41st President.

The airport is located at an elevation of 30m, about 37 kilometers north of Downtown Houston. The formerly known Houston Intercontinental Airport covers 40.5 square kilometers with a total of five runways.

The airport is the second biggest United Airlines hub in the US after Chicago O’Hare. True to its name, the airport has connections to 180 international destinations. It is also the airport with the most destinations in Mexico- over 30!

#7 Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG)

Shanghai Pudong is not only the second biggest Asian airport, the seventh largest airport in the world but also the ninth busiest worldwide.

Located about 30 kilometers east of the city center, Pudong Airport occupies an area of 40 square-kilometers at an elevation of only 4 meters. The airport is also the main hub for China Eastern Airlines and Shanghai Airlines. Pudong Airport has two main and one satellite, a total of three passenger terminals. It is also the third busiest airport by cargo traffic in the world.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport was opened in 1999. The construction of the airport cost 1.67 billion USD and took two years to build. The satellite terminal of the airport is in operation since October 2019.

Cairo International Airport has the largest area among all African airports.

#8 Cairo International Airport (CAI)

Cairo International Airport is the second largest airport outside of the USA and the eighth on the list of the world’s largest airports. In addition, it is the biggest in Africa and the continent’s second busiest (after O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg).

The airport was used as an Allied Forces base during World War II. After the end of the war, it was transformed into a civilian airport and the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority began its administration.

Today, the airport consists of 3 terminals, three runways and is the main hub for two of Egypt’s largest carriers- EgyptAir and Nile Air.

Cairo International Airport is ranked tenth in Skytrax’s Best Airports in Africa 2018 rankings.

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi has the tallest control tower in the world.

#9 Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK)

Unofficially recognized as Bangkok Airport, Suvarnabhumi Airport is the third biggest airport in Asia. It is one of the most popular as well. In 2012, only six years after its completion, Suvarnabhumi was the most popular location for Instagram photos in the world.

Skytrax ranked Bangkok Suvarnabhumi as the 36th best airport in 2018 in annual worldwide rankings.

Bangkok Airport’s area is just over 32 square kilometers, which makes it one of the largest in Southeast Asia. At 132 m, it sports one of the tallest air traffic control towers. The tower alone cost $18 million and its ATC navigates 76 flights per hour.

In Sanskrit, Suvarnabhumi means “Land of Gold”, a mythical land, not too dissimilar from the Western concept of El Dorado but much closer to Thailand.

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi has the tallest control tower in the world.

#10 Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG)

Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport holds not only the tenth spot amongst the world’s largest airports, but is also the tenth busiest in the world. Located 25km north-east of Paris, the airport is ranked as the second-busiest airport in Europe.

Charles de Gaulle Airport was opened in 1974 and carries the name of the famous French army officer who led the French Resistance against Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

The airport covers 32.38 square kilometers at an elevation of 119m. Air France has its main hub located at the airport. The airport had a passenger traffic of nearly 65 million. The airport handled around 72 million passengers in 2018 and nearly 481 thousand aircraft movements.

With this, we conclude our overview of the biggest airports in the world. If you would like to know which are the busiest airports in the world, check out our article on the subject as many of the busiest are not among the biggest and vice versa. Only Paris Charles De Gaulle and Shanghai Pudong made it to both lists.

Regardless, if you were to visit all of these mega-airports, you’d be pretty well-travelled already.

Safe travels!