What’s the world’s busiest airport?

Atlanta busiest airport

Trivia buffs, what’s your guess is the world’s busiest airport? 

Heathrow? Somewhere in the Middle East? Yeah, not even close.

The leading industry body Airports Council International (ACI) has released its annual ranking of busiest airports, and the answer may surprise you.

It’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

Yep, that’s right, not New York. Not Los Angeles, but an airport in the 38th largest city in the US. 

Why? Well, it turns out the Atlanta airport has a few singular attributes that result in it being the busiest flight hub in the world.

It has no competition. Unlike other major centres, there are no other viable airports in the vicinity.

Its location. It is an ideal connection location for the US. You can travel to 80 per cent of the US within two hours from Atlanta. This makes it appealing for both domestic and international travel.

It’s Delta Air Lines’ base airport. Delta operates more than 1000 flights daily, that’s right daily, to more than 225 destinations. 

Other mind-blowing facts are that it hosted 93.7 million passengers in 2022, an increase of 23.8 per cent on 2021. And it’s about to get bigger. A six-year, US$1.4 billion expansion is due to begin this year.

According to the ACI, the US-dominated the list with half of the top 10 and total passenger figures are still to bounce back from the pre-pandemic figures of 2019.

The worlds other busiest airports – with a few weird facts thrown in – are:

No. 2 Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

This airport is the largest hub for American Airlines and is the second largest US airport by area after Denver International Airport.

No. 3 Denver International Airport (DEN)

Denver has been among the top-20 busiest airports in the world every year since 2000, mostly because it’s another good location for travel-through traffic. 

It’s also the subject of a surprising number of conspiracy theories. There are too many to go into here, but if you can read this New York Times article it covers most of the more bonkers theories. In a nutshell, according to the more fringe theories, a lizard race lives under the building, it’s a hotspot for the Illuminati and, weirdly for an airport, it’s a favourite of the flat Earth enthusiasts.

No. 4 Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

Wondering why Chicago’s airport code is ORD? Well, originally it was called Orchard Field. It was renamed O’Hare four years later to honour World War II naval aviator Edward ‘Butch’ O’Hare.

No. 5 Dubai International Airport (DXB)

First on the list outside of the US. Dubai serves the most international passengers of any airport on the list. More than 66.1 million passengers passed through the airport last year, an increase of 127 per cent on 2021.

No. 6 Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Los Angeles’s distinctive Theme Building in the Googie style was built in 1961 and resembles a flying saucer that has landed on its four legs. A restaurant with a sweeping view of the airport is suspended beneath two arches that form the legs. 

No. 7 Istanbul Airport (IST)

Istanbul Airport is supposedly the biggest airport in the world and is estimated to take up 76 million square metres of land. However, that came at a cost. Workers nickednamed the site ‘the cemetery’ after many died during the construction. The official figure is 55 workers, but unofficial estimates have it has high as 400. 

No. 8 Heathrow Airport (LHR)

Heathrow’s top exported freight products exported were salmon, books and car parts. In fact, in 2021, more than £237 million worth of salmon was exported through Heathrow.

No. 9 Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL)

It has over 35,000 ‘air purifying’ plants that can survive indoors. According to airport officials, about 3.9 million square feet of the airport’s area is covered with plants and shrubs including spider plants, golden pothos and bamboo palm.

No. 10 Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)

Europe’s second busiest airport is not actually in Paris, it’s 30km outside the city centre. And while internationally it’s known as Charles de Gaulle Airport, the locals call it Roissy Airport.

And if you are wondering where we stand, Australia did not even crack the top 40 busiest airports. The closest we get is Singapore’s Changi Airport at No. 34.

Have you been to any of the airports mentioned? Did you find them overwhelming? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: Look out for these travel scams

Written by Jan Fisher

Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.

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