21 Biggest Airports in the World
In this article, we take a look at 21 biggest airports in the world. If you want to see more biggest airports in the world, go directly to 5 Biggest Airports in the World.
Airports are the center for air travel as they are where passenger aircraft and cargo aircraft take off and land.
Airports help businesses connect and people move. In many instances, airports are essential as they are the fastest and most economical way for people to move from one place to another. Whereas it would take around a week via ship for voyages from New York to England, for instance, the average trip from New York City to London only takes around 7 hours via airplane.
Big airports can mean big business for many cities as they can facilitate economic activity such as increasing demand for hotels, taxis, and restaurants.
According to the 2021 Airport Traffic Report by the Port Authority of NY & NJ, New York City's biggest airport, JFK airport, plays a substantial role in the regional economy of New York City. In addition to employing 34,850 people directly, JFK airport contributes $42 billion in economic activity to the New York New Jersey Metropolitan area and supports around 195,000 total jobs. According to the same report, the Newark Liberty International Airport generates annual economic activity of $29.3 billion and supports 128,000 jobs.
The World's Biggest Airports
Some of the biggest airports are gigantic.
In 2019 before the pandemic, JFK airport served 62.55 million passengers including 34.3 million international passengers. In 2021, JFK airport served 30.7 million passengers as air travel began recovering.
Given it has the largest economy in the world, the USA has many of the world's biggest airports including the biggest overall. Given its large population and second largest economy, China has several of the world's biggest airports.
Companies That Own Airports
Since building big airports cost a lot of capital, many airports have been built or subsidized by governments. Given that private companies can sometimes realize more efficiencies than governments, some airports that were intially built by governments have since been privatized.
As a result, companies such as Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited owns and operates the UK's biggest airport, Heathrow Airport, and companies like Auckland International Airport Limited (ASX:AIA.AX) owns an airport in Auckland, New Zealand.
In terms of airport businesses, many private airport companies have not fully recovered from the pandemic in terms of their revenues given passenger traffic has not fully rebounded from the pandemic.
The Pandemic and Traffic Recovery
Many public airports have not seen passenger traffic fully recover from the pandemic. Nevertheless, current passenger traffic is higher than what it was in 2020, and many analysts believe passenger traffic will be even higher in one or two years.
According to the World Economic Forum data, overall passenger numbers in 2021 reached out 47% of 2019 levels with international passenger numbers amounting to 27% of the prepandemic levels. In 2022, the industry recovered further, with industry wide passenger numbers reaching 83% of 2019 levels. For the year, international passengers reached 69% of prepandemic levels and domestic air travel reached 93%.
While analysts expect air traffic to increase further, the future depends on consumer behavior, economic conditions, and the existing pandemic. If there is a worse than expected recession, for instance, the time to pre-pandemic levels could be longer than expected. For those of you interested, also check out 15 Largest Airlines in the World in 2022.
For our list of 21 Biggest Airports in the World, we used the 2021 Airport Traffic Report by the Port Authority of NY & NJ's data for top 60 worldwide airports ranked by passenger traffic for 2021.
21 Biggest Airports in the World
#21 Kunming International Airport
2021 Number of Passengers: 32,221,295
Kunming International Airport is an airport that serves the capital city of Yunnan province in China, Kunming. Given China has 1.4 billion people and the world's second largest economy, Kunming International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world with over 32.2 million passengers passing through in 2021. Considering the expected growth in China's middle class, Kunming International Airport will likely handle even more passengers in the future.
#20 Beijing Capital International Airport
2021 Number of Passengers: 32,639,029
Beijing Capital International Airport is the busiest airport in China's capital with over 32.6 million passengers crossing the airport in 2021. Originally built as a gateway to Beijing for the Olympics in 2008, Beijing Capital International Airport is very advanced technologically and operationally with an aerodynamic roof and welcoming architecture. Beijing Capital International Airport ranks #20 on our list of 21 Biggest Airports in the World.
#19 Hongqiao International Airport
2021 Number of Passengers: 33,207,337
Hongqiao International Airport is one of two airports that serves China's major city of Shanghai along with Shanghai's Pudong International Airport. Hongqiao International Airport is located near the town of Hongqiao, which is about 8 miles west of Shanghai's city center. The airport handled over 33.2 million passengers in 2021.
#18 Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport
2021 Number of Passengers: 35,766,284
Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport is another Chinese airport that ranks on our list of the 21 Biggest Airports in the World. The airport is located about 12 miles north of the Chinese city of Chongqing's city center and is a hub for many Chinese airlines. Although it isn't as famous as Beijing or Shanghai, Chongqing is a massive city with over 30 million people.
#17 Mexico City International Airport
2021 Number of Passengers: 36,056,614
Mexico City International Airport is the largest airport in Mexico's capital of Mexico City. With over 36 million passengers passing through, the airport is a major contributor to the city's economy. Mexico City International Airport is also the busiest airport in Mexico and Latin America.
#16 Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
2021 Number of Passengers: 36,154,015
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is Seattle's biggest airport. In terms of its history, the airport has been one of the fastest growing airports in the United States with a steady increase of international flights in the last decade. As a result of its growth, more than 36.1 million passengers passed through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in 2021.
#15 Shenzhen Baoan International Airport
2021 Number of Passengers: 36,358,185
Shenzhen Baoan International Airport is the largest airport in China's tech hub of Shenzhen. Given the economic growth in Shenzhen, the airport plans to have a long term passenger throughput of 100 million by 2030 versus the around 36.4 million passengers that crossed through in 2021 and 52.93 million in 2019. Shenzhen is one of China's richest cities in terms of GDP per capita.
#14 Istanbul International Airport
2021 Number of Passengers: 36,988,067
Istanbul International Airport is one of three airports that serve the capital of Turkey, Istanbul. Of the three, however, Istanbul International Airport is the newest and the largest with almost 37 million passengers passing through in 2021. Long term, the airport is planned to handle as many as 200 million passengers as the airport could be a major transportation hub connecting Europe, Asia, and Africa.
#13 Indira Gandhi International Airport
2021 Number of Passengers: 37,139,957
Indira Gandhi International Airport is India's biggest airport that serves the capital of the country, New Delhi. With throughput of over 37.1 million in 2021, the airport connects India with many major economic centers around the world that could promote economic growth. Given India's population of almost 1.4 billion people and its fast economic growth rate, it is likely that Indira Gandhi International Airport will handle substantially more people in the future as well.
#12 Miami International Airport
2021 Number of Passengers: 37,302,456
Miami International Airport is one of the busiest airports for international passengers given it has more flights to Latin America and the Caribbean than any other U.S. airport. Located in Miami and with over 37.3 million passengers passing through in 2021, Miami International Airport is a leading economic engine for Miami-Date county that generates business revenue of $31.9 billion annually.
#11 Sky Harbor International Airport
2021 Number of Passengers: 38,846,713
Sky Harbor International Airport is the main airport in the Greater Phoenix area that has about 1,200 daily flights that serve over 120 domestic and international destinations. In 2021, the airport had throughput of over 38.8 million people, dwarfing the population of Phoenix which only has around 1.625 million residents.
#10 Harry Reid International Airport
2021 Number of Passengers: 39,754,366
Harry Reid International Airport is Las Vegas' largest airport with over 39.7 million passengers crossing through. The airport is also known as Las Vegas Airport and was formerly known as McCarran International Airport. Given its substantial traffic, Harry Reid International Airport ranks #10 on our list of 21 Biggest Airports in the World.
#9 Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport
2021 Number of Passengers: 40,117,496
Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport is the main airport of China's city of Chengdu which has a population of over 16.3 million people. Located around 10 miles from the city's center, the airport served over 40.1 million passengers in 2021. Given its location, the airport is an important hub for many domestic flights in China.
#8 Guangzhou Bai Yun International Airport
2021 Number of Passengers: 40,259,401
Guangzhou Bai Yun International Airport is the main airport that serves the city of Guangzhou in China. As the main hub of China Southern Airlines, the airport gets a lot of traffic with over 40.2 million passengers crossing through in 2021. As far as airports go, Guangzhou Bai Yun International Airport is relatively new with its opening in 2004.
#7 Orlando International Airport
2021 Number of Passengers: 40,351,068
Orlando International Airport is the main airport for Orlando and Florida's busiest airport with over 40 million passengers crossing through in 2021. The airport offers nonstop service connecting Orlando to more than 150 destinations worldwide including more domestic destinations than any other airport in Florida.
#6 Charlotte Douglas International Airport
2021 Number of Passengers: 43,302,230
Charlotte Douglas International Airport had an average of 1,424 arrivals and departures every day in addition to having a throughput of 43,302,230 passengers in 2021. The airport offers nonstop air service to 184 destinations around the world and is the home to eight major air carriers as well as 15 regional carriers.
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Disclosure: None. 21 Biggest Airports in the World is originally published on Insider Monkey.