US Airports Dominate World’s Busiest Rankings

Credit: Reuters/Elijah Nouvelage/Alamy

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) has regained the top spot as the world’s busiest airport by passenger traffic as US airports dominated the top 10 rankings.

According to figures published by trade body ACI World, the Georgia airport handled 75.7 million passengers during 2021—up 76.4% from 42.9 million in 2020. ATL replaced Guangzhou (CAN) at the summit as the Chinese airport slipped to eighth.

“2021 represents the beginning of the aviation industry’s recovery,” said ACI World director general Luis Felipe de Oliveira. “While some of the perennial busiest airport leaders have re-joined upper ranks, other regions struggle to recover leading to new entrants in the top 20.”

Dallas Forth Worth (DFW) was the second busiest airport in 2021 with 62.5 million passengers, up by 58.7% year-on-year, and Denver (DEN) ranked third with 58.8 million passengers, a rise of 74.4% on 2020.

Five other US airports made the top 10: Chicago O’Hare (ORD) came fourth on 54 million passengers; Los Angeles (LAX) fifth on 48 million; Charlotte (CLT) sixth on 43.3 million; Orlando (MCO) seventh on 40.4 million; and Las Vegas (LAS) tenth on 39.8 million.

From the top 20 rankings, almost all airports have significant domestic traffic representing 65% to 100% of their total passengers. The only exception is Istanbul (IST), which has a larger international traffic share of 72%.

Overall, the world’s airports accommodated 4.6 billion passengers in 2021, representing an increase of 28.3% from 2020, and also a drop of 49.5% from 2019 results.

The top 20 airports, representing 19% of global traffic or 863 million passengers, experienced a gain of 42.9% from 2020 but a drop of 31.9% compared with their 2019 results of 1.27 billion passengers.

The ACI research found that global aircraft movements were close to 74 million in 2021, representing a gain of 18.7% from 2020 results but down 28.2% versus 2019. The top 20 airports, representing 12% of global traffic or 8.7 million movements, witnessed a gain of 27.9% from their 2020 results or a drop of 15.7% versus 2019.…

Elsewhere, air cargo volumes increased by 15.4% year-over-year—and were up 4.5% versus 2019—to a record 125 million metric tonnes in 2021. Air cargo volumes in the top 20 airports, representing around 44% or 54.8 million metric tonnes of the global volumes in 2021, gained 14.7% in 2021 year-over-year or 13.4% versus 2019.

For air freight, Hong Kong (HKG) regained the top rank from Memphis (MEM), followed by Shanghai Pudong (PVG) in third. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, the biggest jump in the top 20 rankings was recorded for Chicago O’Hare, which improved its position by seven places, rising from 18th in 2019 to 11th in 2021.…

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.