The Airports Council International (ACI) in Geneva, Switzerland, offers the most internationally accepted standards for determining the busiest airports in the world; and these are based on three standard definitions – passenger traffic, cargo traffic, and traffic movements.
Passenger traffic is measured as the total numbers of passengers that board and disembark from a plane. Cargo traffic is measured as the total numbers of loaded and unloaded freight and mail in metric tonnes. And traffic movement is determined as the total number of plane landings and take-offs from the airports.
The ACI has statistics of the world’s busiest airports for each year, and this list is compiled based on the statistics for 2015 – the current year.
1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Also known as the Atlanta Airport, Hartsfield, the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport started operations in 1926 and is the busiest airport in the world, a position it has held from 1998 till date – in terms of number of airplane landings and take-offs as well as passenger movements. It handles an average of 95 million passengers annually or over 260,000 passengers per day; with about 950,119 plane landings and take-offs every year. Located 7 miles or 11 kilometres south of Atlanta, Georgia, this airport has 207 domestic and international gates.
The Southwest Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Delta Airlines, Delta Connection, and ExpressJet among other reputable airlines fly the airport with international service to North America, South America, Central America, Europe, Asia, and Africa as well as to domestic flights within the US.
2. Beijing Capital International Airport
The Beijing Capital International Airport started operations in 1958. It is situated 32 km or 20 miles northeast of Beijing and owned by the Beijing Capital International Airport Company Limited. It is the second busiest airport in the world in terms of passenger traffic and cargo traffic – a record it has held since 2009. There were 557,167 plane takeoffs and landings in 2012, and a cargo traffic of 1,787,027 tonnes in the same year.
Located on 1,480 hectares or 3,700 acres of land, the Beijing Capital International Airport has the Air China, Hainan, and China Southern Airlines among others using the airport as their main hub.
3. Dubai International Airport
The Dubai International Airport or DXB managed 71.6 million passengers, 2.37 million cargo tonnes, and handled 405,750 aircraft movements in 2014, making it the third busiest airport in the world. Located in the Al Garhoud district of Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, the airport covers 2,900 hectares or 7,200 acres of space.
It is owned by the Dubai Airports Company and started operations in 1960. It handles about 75 million passengers every year, 8,000 weekly flights operated by about 140 airlines to 270 world destinations. Airlines like Emirates, FlyDubai, and Emirates SkyCargo among other airlines fly the airport and use it as their main hub in the Middle East.
4. Tokyo Haneda Airport
Also known as Haneda Airport, the Tokyo International Airport handled about 90 million passengers since 2010, making it the fourth busiest airport in the world. It started operations in 1931 and is used by major airlines like Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Air Do, Skymark Airlines, Solaseed Air, and StarFlyer among others.
5. London Heathrow Airport
Located in West London, England, the United Kingdom, the London Heathrow Airport is the busiest airport in the UK and in Europe by passenger traffic – managing 73.4 million passengers in 2014. It is 22 km or 14 miles west of Central London and is owned by the Heathrow Airport Holdings.
The airport started operations in 1929 and used daily by over 90 airlines flying to 170 destinations throughout the continents. It records about 472,802 aircraft landings and takeoffs every year and is the main hub of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
6. Los Angeles International Airport
Also known as LAX (with the letters pronounced separately), the Los Angeles International Airport is located in Westchester, southwestern Los Angeles, 16 miles or 26 kilometres from Downtown Los Angeles, and the sixth busiest airport in the world.
It handled 70,622,212 passengers in 2014, and is owned by the Los Angeles World Airports. It was established in 1941 and became an international airport in 1949. It is used as a hub by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air, Great Lakes Airlines, and Virgin America; as well as for Southwest Airlines, Allegiant Air, Air New Zealand, Qantas, and Volaris among others.
7. Hong Kong International Airport
The Hong Kong International Airport or the Chek Lap Kok Airport is situated on Chek Lap Kok island, off Lantau island. It handled 63.3 million passengers in 2014, and currently has over 100 airlines flying to over 180 global destinations. The airport hires about 65,000 employees and this gives it a big boost to the Hong Kong economy.
Built originally in 1925 but upgraded in 1998, HKIA is managed by the Airport Authority Hong Kong 24 hours a day and used by Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, Hong Kong Airlines, Hong Kong Express Airways, Air Hong Kong, Oneworld alliance and UPS Airlines.
8. O’Hare International Airport
The Chicago O’Hare International Airport is situated about 17 miles or 27 kilometres of the Loop and on the Far Northwest Side of Chicago, Illinois. It handled 201 daily air flights and 15.3 million passengers every year. The O’Hare airport has direct service to 210 destinations in the world and 153 domestic destinations within the US.
Established in 1949, the O’Hare international airport operated by the City of Chicago Department of Aviation and used as a hub by American Airlines, United Airlines, Air Choice One, and Frontier Airlines, and Spirit Airlines among others.
9. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
Located on a total area of 78 square kilometres or 30 square miles, the Dallas/Fort Wort International Airport was built in 1973 and situated between Dallas and Fort Worth cities. In 2014, it operated a service to 55 international and 147 domestic destinations within the United States.
It is the ninth busiest airport and manages about 900 flights daily. It is used by American Airlines and other major airlines at their main hub. The Dallas/Fort Wort International Airport has its own ZIP code, postal service, police station, fire service, emergency medical services, and managed by a board of directors.
10. Suvarnabhumi Airport
The Suvarnabhumi Airport or New Bangkok International Airport is located in Bangkok, Thailand. It started operations in 2006, and serves as the main hub for Thai Airways International, Orient Thai Airlines, and Bangkok Airways among others.
The Suvarnabhumi Airport is the 10th busiest airport in the world with 53 million passengers in 2012, operated by 96 airlines to over 100 destinations. This airport has the world’s tallest free-standing control tower at 132.2 meters or 434 feet.