- Atlanta’s airport is the busiest hub in the world for 2022 with 93 million passengers.
- London Heathrow had a 218% increase in passenger traffic compared to 2021, ranking 8th.
- In third place, Denver is one of the only airports to have caught up with pre-pandemic levels.
Air travel is roaring again, and nowhere was it busier in 2022 than at the top 10 busiest airports in the world.
In 2022, global traffic neared seven billion passengers, a 53.5% increase compared to 2021, according to preliminary data published by the Airports Council International, a trade association that includes 1925 airports all over the world.
Traffic has still not returned to what was seen before the COVID-19 pandemic — the numbers represent a 74% recovery from 2019.
Five of the busiest airports in the world are in the US, with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport topping the list for the second year in a row. Last year, US airports accounted for eight of the 10 busiest airports.
“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,” Luis Felipe de Oliveira, the Airports Council International’s world director general, said in a press release.
“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,” he added.
The ranking is based on total passengers getting on and off planes, with passengers in transit counted once.
Take a closer look at the top 10 busiest airports in the world.
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Roughly 57 million passengers passed France’s biggest airport in 2022. That’s a 119% increase compared to 2021, and a big rebound for the Parisian airport, which had been lagging behind since the COVID-19 pandemic, and ranked 31st in 2021. The volume of passengers is still 24.5% less than it was in 2019, when the airport ranked ninth in the world.
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Delhi’s airport, also known as Indira Gandhi International Airport, had 59 million passengers last year, a 60% increase compared to 2021 when it ranked 13th. While the volume of the airport’s passengers is still 13% less than it was in 2019, Delhi seems to have benefited from the recent reshuffling of rankings, having climbed from number 17 in 2019.
No airport on the list has had a better recovery in 2022 than Heathrow, with nearly 62 million passengers and a 218% increase in traffic compared to the previous year, when it lagged at number 54. That’s despite having temporarily introduced a cap of 100,000 passengers per day to limit travel disruptions over the summer. Before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, Heathrow was seventh on the list.
Istanbul airport is the only one of the airports on the list that is actually doing considerably better in terms of passenger traffic than before the pandemic. With 64 million passengers registered in 2022, a 23% increase compared to 2019, and a 74% increase compared to 2021, when it ranked at 14th. The airport opened in 2018 and took over all the flights from the city’s previous main international gateway, Atatürk Airport.
Los Angeles handled nearly 66 million travelers in 2022, which was a 37.3% increase in traffic compared to 2021. Los Angeles’ passenger traffic was still 25.1% below 2019 levels, which is the biggest difference in traffic of any airport on the top 10 list. The airport is a hub for several carriers, including Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, American, and Delta Air Lines.
With 66 million passengers, that number represents a 127% increase compared to 2021 for Dubai International Airport, making it the busiest airport outside of the US. It regained its top 10 spot after 2021 which saw it slumping down to number 27. Traffic still hasn’t caught up with 2019 by 23.5%
Chicago’s largest airport saw a little over 68 million passengers in 2022, up 26.5% compared to 2021. Still lagging with 19.3% behind pre-pandemic traffic levels, it maintained the fourth place standing it had last year. O’Hare is a hub airport for United and American, and a focus city for low-cost rivals Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines.
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In third place like last year, Denver handled about 69 million passengers in 2021, up 17.8% from 2020. The airport is one of the only ones in the top 10 to have caught up with pre-pandemic traffic levels, even registering a 0.4% increase compared with 2019, when it was in 16th place.
Dallas/Fort Worth is the second-busiest airport in the US and the world in 2022, with some 73 million travelers, 17.5% more than in 2021, but still 2.3% below 2019 levels. The airport serves the Dallas metropolitan area and is American’s largest base.
Atlanta, which is home to Delta, has defended its title as the busiest airport in the world, which it regained in 2021 after temporarily losing the crown to China’s Guangzhou airport in 2020. Atlanta handled over 93 million passengers in 2022, with traffic increasing by 23.8% compared to 2021. However, it still lags behind 2019 levels by about 15%.