World’s Busiest Airports Near Pre-Pandemic Passenger Levels

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Chicago O’Hare International Airport (Photo by Silvia Fang on Unsplash)

Airports still aren’t quite as busy as they were before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. But they’re getting closer.

Nearly 7 billion passengers took flight around the world in 2022, an increase of 53.5 percent from 2021 and nearly three-quarters as many travelers flew in the record-setting, pre-pandemic year of 2019. At the world’s 10 busiest, passenger traffic hit 85.9 percent of 2019 levels. Those airports represent 10 percent of all global air travel, according to Airports Council International (ACI), a trade group for the airport industry.

ACI once again ranked Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL) the busiest airport in the world; the Delta Air Lines hub handled 93.7 million passengers in 2022, up 23.8 percent from the previous year. ATL, which had fallen behind China’s Guangzhou Baiyun International in 2020, reclaimed the title in 2021 as China shut down travel due to its own ongoing struggles with COVID-19.

5 of the World’s Busiest Airports are in the U.S.

Five of the top 10 busiest airports in the world are located in the United States, due in large part to their heavy volume of passengers flying domestically. Taking the other top spots in terms of passenger traffic in 2022 included:

  • Dallas Fort Worth International (DFW): 73.4 million passengers, up 17.5 percent from 2021
  • Denver International (DEN): 69.3 million passengers, up 17.8 percent
  • Chicago O’Hare International (ORD): 68.3 million passengers, up 26.5 percent
  • Dubai International (DXB): 66.1 million passengers, up 127 percent
  • Los Angeles International (LAX): 65.9 million passengers, up 73.8 percent
  • Istanbul (IST): 64.3 million passengers, up 73.8 percent
  • London Heathrow International (LHR): 61.6 million passengers, up 212.7 percent
  • New Delhi International (DEL): 59.4 million passengers, up 60.2 percent
  • Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG): 57.4 million passengers, up 119.4 percent

ACI World director general Luis Felipe de Oliveira said the rebound shows that public desire for air travel remains undiminished by the pandemic.

“While US airport hubs were able to recover quicker due to their strong domestic market, we are now witnessing global hubs joining upper ranks—including Dubai, Istanbul, and London Heathrow airport,” he said. “While we continue to march forward cautiously amidst multiple headwinds that could impact the speed and magnitude of global air traffic recovery, the latest rankings represent an important milestone in reaching pre-pandemic levels. The re-opening of China, the second largest aviation market after the US, is now expected to bring an overall gain, both domestically and for international travel.”

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