Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has retained its position as the busiest airport in the world, with 93.7 million passengers passing through its gates in 2022, representing a 23.8% increase from the previous year.

London Heathrow Airport made the biggest jump in the rankings, climbing from the 54th position as borders reopened in March 2022 after two years of closures, marking a significant milestone in the air travel industry’s recovery from the pandemic.

The recovery in international travel was reflected in the gains made by the world’s busiest airports. According to preliminary figures released by the Airports Council International (ACI) World, global passenger traffic reached close to 7 billion in 2022, a 53.5% increase from the previous year, and a 73.8% recovery from 2019.

Passenger Traffic 2022

Global passenger traffic reached close to 7 billion in 2022, a 53.5% increase from the previous year, and a 73.8% recovery from 2019. Atlanta Airport was followed by Dallas Fort Worth Airport, Denver Airport and Chicago O’Hare Airport completing the top four.

Five of the top 10 busiest airports in the world are in the United States, with significant domestic passenger shares between 75% and 95%. The top 10 airports for total passenger traffic, representing 10% of global traffic, achieved an 85.9% recovery from 2019 results, with a gain of 51.7% from 2021.

However, airports outside of the US also made significant gains in passenger traffic. Dubai Airport achieved the fifth spot in the Global rankings as well as topped the list in terms of international passengers, with 66.1 million passengers passing through its gates, a 127% increase from the previous year. Istanbul Airport and London Heathrow Airport also saw significant increases in passenger traffic, reaching the seventh and eighth positions, respectively.

For the ninth year in a row, Dubai International Airport retained its position as the world’s busiest airport for international passengers.

“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,” ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said.

“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.”

ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira

Aircraft Movement

The global aircraft movement in 2022 was close to 89 million, marking a gain of 20.4% from the previous year’s results. This recovery is significant as it represents 82.5% of the pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Unsurprisingly, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport tops the list with 724,145 aircraft movements, representing a 2.3% increase from 2021. However, it still falls short of its 2019 results of 904,000 aircraft movements, which represents a 19.9% decrease. Chicago O’Hare Airport and Dallas Fort Worth Airport ranked second and third respectively.

The top 10 airports for aircraft movements, which constitute close to 7% of global traffic, witnessed a gain of 11.4% from their 2021 results, recovering to 91.5% compared to their 2019 results, which saw 6.2 million movements.

Cargo Traffic 2022

It is estimated that the volume of air cargo experienced a decline of 6.7% year-over-year, which represents almost 117 million metric tonnes in 2022. This is a reduction of 1.7% compared to 2019.

Hong Kong Airport held the top spot, with a volume of 4.2 million metric tonnes, experiencing a decline of 16.4% followed by Memphis Airport and Anchorage Airport. Shanghai Pudong Airport lost its spot to Anchorage Airport and ended up in fourth position.

The top 10 airports for air cargo traffic, which accounts for about 27% or 30.8 million metric tonnes of global volumes in 2022, experienced a decrease of 9.9% year-over-year, although there was still a gain of 4.1% compared to 2019 results. This decline can be attributed to the ongoing geopolitical tensions and disruptions to global trade and supply chains.

In conclusion, the 2022 rankings of the world’s busiest airports reflect a gradual recovery of the aviation industry from the impact of the pandemic. Despite the challenges posed by geopolitical tensions, disruptions to global trade, and supply chains, the top airports worldwide have shown significant improvements in terms of passenger traffic, aircraft movements, and air cargo volumes.

While the aviation industry continues to adapt to the changing global scenario, the resilience and adaptability of these airports reflect a promising future for air travel.

Data Source: ACI