Visualized: The World’s Busiest Airports, by Passenger Count
Airports, with their slow-moving queues and bustling gates, can be some of the most crowded, stressful places in the world. Despite the negatives associated with commercial air travel, overall it’s an impressive system, with the biggest air transit hubs recording passenger traffic numbers that rival the populations of large countries.
The infographic above uses data from Airports Council International (ACI) to rank the top 10 busiest airports in the world, looking at total passengers enplaned and deplaned, with passengers in transit counted once.
The Most Bustling Airports in 2022
In 2022, worldwide passenger traffic came near to 7 billion, an increase of almost 54% from 2021, and a 74% recovery from pre-pandemic levels.
Here’s a closer look at the data, alongside the year-over-year increases at each airport:
|Rank||Airport||City||Passengers (2022)||Change vs. 2021|
|#1||Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)||🇺🇸 Atlanta||93,699,630||24%|
|#2||Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)||🇺🇸 Dallas||73,362,946||18%|
|#3||Denver International Airport (DEN)||🇺🇸 Denver||69,286,461||18%|
|#4||Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)||🇺🇸 Chicago||68,340,619||27%|
|#5||Dubai International Airport (DXB)||🇦🇪 Dubai||66,069,981||127%|
|#6||Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)||🇺🇸 Los Angeles||65,924,298||37%|
|#7||Istanbul Airport (IST)||🇹🇷 Istanbul||64,289,107||74%|
|#8||Heathrow Airport (LHR)||🇬🇧 London||61,614,508||218%|
|#9||Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL)||🇮🇳 New Delhi||59,490,074||60%|
|#10||Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)||🇫🇷 Paris||57,474,033||119%|
These 10 airports made up 10% of all passenger traffic in the world last year. Half of these airports are in the U.S. and their numbers were largely buoyed by domestic travelers, according to the ACI Director General.
While Atlanta’s airport saw the highest number of passengers at nearly 94 million, London’s Heathrow airport saw passenger traffic grow the most annually by over 217%.
In this dataset, such big percentage increases between 2021 and 2022 are usually linked to the scaling back or full removal of COVID-19 restrictions.
The Travel Industry Looking Ahead
Despite high levels of passenger traffic globally, the travel and tourism industry has actually not yet fully recovered to pre-pandemic peaks, but it is getting close. A recent report from the World Travel & Tourism Council found that the industry has recovered to 95% of its market size in 2019.
Jobs also recovered in the industry with 21.6 million workers added in 2022, hitting over 295 million globally and representing one in 11 jobs worldwide. Spending by overseas tourists also hit a record growth rate last year of 82%, totaling out to $1.1 trillion. Overall, the trend is looking positive for those in travel and tourism.
In fact, many popular travel destinations have already had spending exceed 2019 figures, with 34 countries seeing their travel industries return to pre-pandemic levels of contribution to GDP.
“By the end of the year, the sector’s contribution will be within touching distance of the 2019 peak. We expect 2024 to exceed 2019.”– Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO
While conflicts like the war in Ukraine have hindered recovery somewhat, recent moves by countries like China to reopen borders will help bolster growth in the travel and tourism industries.