International travel returns: Top 10 busiest airports in the world revealed

Airports Council International (ACI) World has today published the top 10 busiest airports worldwide for 2022, which welcomes back some of the world’s largest airport hubs as international traffic returns, marking an important milestone in air travel’s full recovery from the impact of the pandemic.

Passenger traffic

Preliminary figures indicate that with the resumption of international travel, 2022 global passenger traffic reached close to 7 billion, representing an increase of 53.5% from 2021, or a 73.8% recovery from 2019 results.

The top 10 airports for total passenger traffic, representing 10% of global traffic, witnessed a gain of 51.7% from 2021 amounting to 85.9% recovery vis-à-vis their 2019 results.

Holding their positions from 2021, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL, 93.7 million passengers, +23.8%) is at the top of the 2022 rankings, followed by Dallas Fort Worth Airport (DFW, 73.4 million passengers, +17.5%), Denver Airport (DEN, 69.3 million passengers, +17.8%), and Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD, 68.3 million passengers, +26.5%).

From the top 10 airports globally, 5 are in the United States. They all have significant domestic passenger shares (between 75% and 95% domestic traffic).

Airports reinstated in the upper ranks also include Dubai Airport achieving 5th rank (DXB, 66.1 million passengers, +127%), Istanbul Airport reaching 7th position (IST, 64.3 million passengers, +73.8%), followed by London Heathrow Airport, Delhi Airport, and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in the 8th, 9th, and 10th spots respectively (see table below).

The biggest jump in the top 10 was recorded for London Heathrow (LHR). The airport improved its ranking from the 54th position as borders reopened in March 2022 after two years of closures.

ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said: “The new top 10 busiest airports for passenger traffic reflects the resilience of the airport and aviation industry, and the eagerness of passengers to travel by air. 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. 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.

“The ongoing recovery of air travel demand would not be possible without the continuous work of airports to provide a safe, secure, efficient, and sustainable air transport ecosystem for the passengers that we depend on and the communities we serve. ACI World will remain committed to representing the best interests of airports on the global stage during key phases of policy development and to promoting airport excellence.”

Cargo traffic

Air cargo volumes are estimated to have decreased by 6.7% year-over-year (-1.7% versus 2019), to close to 117 million metric tonnes in 2022.

Air cargo volumes in the top 10 airports for air cargo traffic—representing around 27% (30.8 million metric tonnes) of the global volumes in 2022—lost 9.9% in 2022 year-over-year (but kept a gain of 4.1% versus 2019 results). The decline can be attributed to the ongoing geopolitical tensions and disruptions to global trade and supply chains.

Hong Kong Airport (HKG, 4.2 million metric tonnes, -16.4%) remained in the top rank followed by Memphis Airport (MEM, 4 million metric tonnes, -9.8%) and Anchorage Airport (ANC, 3.5 million metric tonnes, -4.3%). Shanghai Pudong Airport (PVG, 3.1 million metric tonnes, -21.7%) lost its spot to ANC and ended up in 4th position.

Aircraft movements

2022 global aircraft movements are close to 89 million, constituting a gain of 20.4% from 2021 results. This represents a recovery of 82.5% from pre-pandemic levels (2019).

The top 10 airports for aircraft movements, representing close to 7% of global traffic (5.7 million movements), witnessed a gain of 11.4% from their 2021 results, recovering to 91.5% vis-à-vis their 2019 results (6.2 million in 2019).

ATL is at the top with 724 thousand movements (+2.3% from 2021) but still below its 2019 result of 904 thousand movements (-19.9%). ORD (712 thousand movements, +4%) is in 2nd rank after leading ATL in 2019 and 2018, followed by DFW (657 thousand movements, +0.7%).

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