The world’s busiest airports are major connecting hubs for travellers from around the globe.
The list below consists of airports that are ranked by the volume of passengers. In the calculations are included: the departing passengers, arriving passengers, transferring passengers and direct transfer passengers.
The list is based on the figures from the preliminary report released by the Airports Council International(ACI).
We also have a separate article ranking the biggest airports in the world by area, so make sure you check it.
So which are the biggest airports by passenger movements?
#1 Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
Hartsfield- Jackson has been the world’s biggest airport by passenger traffic since 2000. Its business has only grown since then. As of 2019, more than 107 million passengers arrive or depart from Atlanta International Airport each year. This means that the airport accommodates nearly 295,000 passengers daily.
The airport offers services to both domestic and international destinations in five different continents: North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia.
Hartsfield-Jackson Airport serves as the main hub of Delta Air Lines and 72% of its flights are operated by Delta.
#2 Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)
Beijing Capital opened in the 1950s but only in the last decade, it has risen to one of the biggest airports in the world in terms of number of passengers. In 2017 alone, passenger traffic exceeded 95 million. In 2018 Beijing Airport surpassed the 100 million passengers. It is a hub for China’s major airlines: Air China, China Eastern and China Southern Airlines, as well as Hainan.
Beijing Capital has become an important meeting point of Asia, Europe and North America. Nevertheless, the airport has retained its Chinese roots. Passengers can walk through miniature imperial architecture with gardens and bridges imitating Beijing’s famous Summer Palace. Travellers with a longer layover can also pay a short trip to the Great Wall of China.
In case there’s not enough time for that, you may still enjoy your time at the airport. As one of the largest airports in the world and a major world hub, BCIA offers more than 70 different restaurants with food from around the globe. In addition, the airport has more than four football fields of area with retail and services options.
#3 Dubai International Airport (DXB)
If we were ranking the world’s largest airports by international flight traffic, Dubai International Airport would have topped the list. It is the major transport hub in the middle east. However, due to the smaller number of domestic flights, this airport in the United Arab Emirates ranks as the third biggest airport in the world.
Dubai International Airport is the main hub for the city’s two international carriers- Emirates and flydubai. Another 140 airlines operate flights to and from the airport.
Hand in hand with Dubai’s increasing popularity in the last two decades, the airport’s growth passenger traffic has been staggering. Passenger movements (arrivals and departures) have grown from 4 million to close to 90 million in 2018.
When Terminal 3 was built, it became the largest building in the world by area. At the time of writing, this terminal of the airport covers only flights operated by Emirates and Qantas.
Dubai International Airport contributes a staggering $27 billion to Dubai’s economy which equals close to 27% of its GDP. Aviation in Dubai also contributes to 21% of employment. In the next years, its significance is expected only to increase and to contribute to 35% of employment and to bring in $88 billion dollars.
#4 Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
LAX served more than 87 million passengers in 2018, which makes it the fourth busiest airport in the world. It comes second in the United States for passenger movements, according to Airports Council International.
Los Angeles International is a major connection point for international flights, particularly to other countries in North America, South America and Asia.
As it is by far the largest airport on the East Coast, it serves as a hub for all major US airlines.
If you ever find yourself in the area, make sure to pronounce the letters of LAX separately. The airport’s designation used to be just LA until the 1930s. Aviation’s rapid growth, however, necessitated three-letter identifiers, so an “X” was added. In and of itself the “X” is meaningless.
#5 Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND)
It makes sense that the largest metropolitan area in the world would also house one of the busiest airports worldwide. In fact, despite an increase in passenger movements, it was recently surpassed by LAX as the fourth busiest airport. In 2018, it accommodated just over 87 million travelers.
It is the major hub for Japan’s two biggest airlines: All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines.
Tokyo will host the 2020 Olympic Games and passengers should expect a further development of Tokyo Haneda, which will improve its connectivity.
Few passengers would like to connect flights at one of the biggest world airports.
But if you are connecting at Tokyo Haneda, make sure to stroll down Edo-koji street. The restaurants and shops there are designed to imitate the traditional Japanese architecture and you can find fantastic food and memorable souvenirs to complete your trip to Japan.
Tokyo Haneda was ranked #3 among the world's best airports in 2018 according to Skytrax. In addition, it was voted World’s Cleanest Airport and World’s Best Domestic Airport in 2018.
#6 Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
Chicago O’Hare was the most used airport in the world between 1963 and 1998. With 83 million passengers served in 2018, it was the sixth busiest airport globally.
After becoming a symbol of the jet area in the 1960s and 1970s, America’s second largest airport continues to be a pioneer of innovations.
It was the first airport in the world to host an apiary which became home to more than a million bees. The bees were kept by former convicts from the Chicago, Illinois area in a successful effort to teach the former prisoners new skills and help them become more employable.
In addition, the airport hosts the first aeroponic garden. Its produce supplies the various restaurants in the terminal.
Chicago O’Hare is a major hub for United Airlines and American Airlines.
#7 London Heathrow Airport (LHR)
With its 80 million passengers per year, Heathrow is the busiest airport in Europe and the seventh in the world. It is a major part of London’s airport system, which is the biggest in the world.
It consists of four active terminals (T2-T4). Three of them are dedicated to the three major alliances and the fourth-- to British Airways.
It is a major hub for British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
The most common international routes from LHR are to and from New York- JFK, Dubai International Airport and Dublin.
As Europe’s busiest airport, Heathrow is expected to play a big part in the UK’s economy following Brexit.
#8 Hong Kong International Airport (HKG)
Hong Kong International was built in 1998 but has since become one of the biggest airports worldwide in terms of number of passengers annually.
It is a major hub for all Hong Kong airlines, including Cathay Pacific, and a focus city for China and China Eastern Airlines.
The airport is built on land reclaimed from the sea specifically for the construction of the airport. Furthermore, the expansion of the airport to include a third runway and an additional concourse has been agreed.
HKG was ranked fourth by Skytrax in its best airports rankings. It is World’s Best Transit Airport and the Best Airport for Dining.
Being one of the largest airports in the world has its perks. If you have a few hours to spend at Hong Kong Intl Airport, don’t miss playing a few holes of golf, or watching an IMAX movie. You can find both at Terminal 2.
#9 Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG)
Shanghai Pudong only entered the top 10 of the largest global airports in 2016. However, thanks to a growth rarely seen, it will likely remain amongst them for the foreseeable future.
As of 2018, Shanghai Pudong served 74 million passengers on mostly international flights. The main reason behind this growth is the airport’s expansion, completed in 2015, which effectively doubled the airport’s capacity. Today, the airport has two terminals and five runways.
And while Pudong’s passenger concourses may not be that impressive in and of themselves, you could take a maglev (magnetic levitation) train to the city and feel your heart rate rise as the train’s speed surpasses 430 km/h.
We hope these super-high-speed trains will help more passengers in avoiding a missed flight.
#10 Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)
Paris CDG is the second largest international airport in Europe after London Heathrow and in light of Brexit, it is expected to become the busiest airport in the EU. The airport accommodated nearly 72 million passenger arrivals and departures in 2018.
Further growth is expected and just in January and February of 2019, CDG passenger traffic surpassed 10 million.
Paris Charles de Gaulle, France’s largest airport, was built in an avant-garde style in the 1960s and 70s and consists of 3 terminals. They host flights departing and arriving from six different continents.
Paris Charles de Gaulle is Air France’s primary hub.
Biggest Airports: Honorable Mentions
#11 Amsterdam Schiphol
- #12 Indira Gandhi International Airport
#13 Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport
#14 Frankfurt Airport
#16 Seoul Incheon International Airport
#17 Atatürk International Airport
#18 Soekarno-Hatta International Airport
Future #1? Beijing New Airport to become the busiest in the world.
Beijing Daxing International Airport, sometimes referred to as Beijing New Airport, will be the city’s second international airport and is expected to become the world’s busiest airport. The new airport is expected to handle more than 130 million passengers annually.
The building was designed by the late Zada Hadid and its integrated and beautiful hub with six spokes design has been praised by architects from around the world. This design is meant to make connections much less time-consuming, especially when travelling with airlines within the same alliance.