plane landingEver wondered what the busiest airports are in the world? The truth may surprise you. Many of us, myself included prior, would imagine the major airports in world cities to host the most passengers throughout the year, like New York City’s JFK or Tokyo International. Though they both made the list, there are a good number of airports ahead of them.

These are the world’s busiest airports, according to Airports Council International. Currently, Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (Indonesia) and the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (China) are not included due to missing information.

Rank .AirportLocationCode (IATA/ICAO)Total (Jan through June, 2011)
1 Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International AirportAtlanta, Georgia, United StatesATL/KATL53,892,885
2 Beijing Capital International AirportChaoyang, Beijing, ChinaPEK/ZBAA44,097,339
3 London Heathrow AirportHillingdon, Greater London, England, United KingdomLHR/EGLL39,762,295
4 O'Hare International AirportChicago, Illinois, United StatesORD/KORD38,248,474
5 Los Angeles International AirportLos Angeles, California, United StatesLAX/KLAX35,933,812
6 Paris Charles de Gaulle AirportRoissy-en-France, Île-de-France, FranceCDG/LFPG34,969,496
7 Tokyo International AirportOta, Tokyo, JapanHND/RJTT33,524,239
8 Dallas Fort Worth International AirportDallas/Fort Worth, Texas, United StatesDFW/KDFW33,498,596
9 Frankfurt AirportFrankfurt am Main, Hessen, GermanyFRA/EDDF32,090,166
10 Denver International AirportDenver, Colorado, United StatesDEN/KDEN30,570,965
11 Hong Kong International AirportChek Lap Kok, Hong Kong, ChinaHKG/VHHH30,481,000
12 Dubai International AirportGarhoud, Dubai, United Arab EmiratesDXB/OMDB29,291,927
13 Madrid Barajas AirportMadrid, SpainMAD/LEMD28,792,188
14 Amsterdam Schiphol AirportHaarlemmermeer, North Holland, NetherlandsAMS/EHAM28,266,665
15 Suvarnabhumi AirportBang Phli, Samut Prakan, ThailandBKK/VTBS28,162,022
16 John F. Kennedy International AirportQueens, New York City, New York, United StatesJFK/KJFK27,720,474
17 Singapore Changi AirportChangi, East Region, SingaporeSIN/WSSS26,575,732
18 McCarran International AirportLas Vegas, Nevada, United StatesLAS/KLAS24,043,383
19 Phoenix Sky Harbor International AirportPhoenix, Arizona, United StatesPHX/KPHX24,037,430
20 Shanghai Pudong International AirportPudong, Shanghai, ChinaPVG/ZSPD23,697,018
21 George Bush Intercontinental AirportHouston, Texas, United StatesIAH/KIAH23,663,033
22 San Francisco International AirportSan Mateo County, California, United StatesSFO/KSFO23,073,700
23 Charlotte Douglas International AirportCharlotte, North Carolina, United StatesCLT/KCLT22,880,203
24 Miami International AirportMiami-Dade County, Florida, United StatesMIA/KMIA22,471,310
25 Kuala Lumpur International AirportSepang, Selangor, MalaysiaKUL/WMKK21,835,211
26 Munich AirportMunich, Bavaria, GermanyMUC/EDDM21,563,133
27 Orlando International AirportOrlando, Florida, United StatesMCO/KMCO21,479,475
28 Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino AirportFiumicino, Rome, ItalyFCO/LIRF21,417,335
29 Atatürk International AirportIstanbul, TurkeyIST/LTBA20,709,875
30 Sydney AirportSydney, New South Wales, AustraliaSYD/YSSY20,705,387

Notice that Atlanta, of all places, is the busiest airport in the world?!?!? That’s right, Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson continues its streak as the airport with the most passengers passing through for the 7th year in a row, since 2005. Why Atlanta? A few reasons might include:

  • Delta Airlines is headquartered at ATL, and it is the world’s largest airline, at least until United and Continental finalize their merger. The Delta Hub at ATL is the world’s largest airline hub.
  • It is a large international hub, instead of Miami or Fort Lauderdale, for people from all over the US to connect to continue on to Mexico, Central America, and South America.
  • UPS is also headquartered in Atlanta, and they average 15 million shipments per day, so some of that must go through ATL.
  • AirTran airlines is headquartered at ATL.
  • Many other international companies headquartered in the Atlanta area, such as SunTrust Bank, Coca-Cola, and CNN.
  • Land in the Atlanta area is cheap and widely-available.

Even still, it’s quite weird, huh? Chicago’s O’hare beats out LAX, though Los Angeles has a million more people and Chicago is landlocked. And Denver, of all places, is in the top 10! Denver International is the third largest airport in the world, at 53 square miles, and is the main hub for Frontier Airlines. All in all, 13 of the top 30 of the busiest airports in the world are located in the United States.

This data was calculated by ACI using numbers registered in the first half of 2011, from January through June. ACI counted a passenger as someone who arrives in, departs from, or transfers through the airport on any given day. The full list for the entire year of 2011 will be available in early 2012.

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