This article outlines the 10 busiest airports in the world based on 2023 passenger traffic data. The rankings and passenger traffic numbers come from a recent report by Airports Council International, the trade association for the world’s airports. The list includes major international hubs, airports serving busy domestic markets, and rapidly growing airports in Asia. The top 10 busiest represent a mix of long-established aviation centers as well as airports benefiting from booming travel demand in emerging markets.
While Atlanta and Dubai retain the #1 and #2 spots, the rest of the top 10 includes significant movement compared to previous years. Guangzhou cracks the top 10 while Beijing drops out. Meanwhile, US airports remain strongly represented with 4 entries. Keep reading to learn which airports made the top 10 for total passenger traffic in 2023 and what’s driving growth at these busy aviation hubs. The article outlines details on passenger traffic, airport location, history, and reasons for high volumes.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) is located 7 miles south of downtown Atlanta in Georgia. It is the primary airport serving Atlanta and is the busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic. The airport opened in 1925 as Candler Field, named after Coca-Cola founder Asa Griggs Candler. In 1941 the city of Atlanta purchased the airport and changed the name to Atlanta Municipal Airport. The name changed again in 1967 to William B. Hartsfield Atlanta Airport after former Atlanta mayor William B. Hartsfield. In 2003, the name became Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport to also honor former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson.
ATL has two main passenger terminals – the domestic terminal and the international terminal, which are connected by an underground train system. The airport has 192 gates with flights from over 50 airline companies including Delta, Southwest, American, United, Air Canada, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa and more. In 2021, ATL served over 75 million passengers, making it the world’s busiest airport by passenger traffic for over 22 consecutive years. The airport is a major hub for Delta Air Lines and serves as a regional gateway hub for international flights. Key factors contributing to ATL’s continued growth and success include its efficient design, large capacity, convenient location, and role as a major connecting hub.
Dubai International Airport is the main international airport serving Dubai, United Arab Emirates. With over 56.5 million passengers passing through in 2023, it is currently the world’s busiest airport for international passenger traffic. The airport is located in the Al Garhoud district, about 4 kilometers southeast of downtown Dubai. It has three terminals – Terminal 1, Terminal 2 and Terminal 3, with a total capacity to handle over 100 million passengers annually. Dubai International first opened in 1960 with a single runway and terminal. The airport saw tremendous growth in the 1990s and 2000s in line with Dubai’s transformation into a major tourism and business hub. Terminal 2 opened in 1998, and the state-of-the-art Terminal 3 opened in 2008 in time for the passenger traffic boom.
Today, Dubai International connects over 210 destinations across 93 countries through over 100 airlines. Top destinations include London, Mumbai, Kuwait, Doha and Hong Kong. The airport serves as a major hub for Emirates Airline, flydubai and freight operators such as Emirates SkyCargo. The airport has received numerous awards, including “Best Airport in the Middle East” and “Best Airport for Layovers.” Key amenities include an extensive duty free shopping area, lounges, restaurants, a hotel and spa. Extensive metro and bus connectivity provides easy access to the rest of Dubai. Major expansion work is currently underway to enable the airport to reach its projected capacity of 118 million passengers per year by 2025. This includes building a new Concourse D and upgrading existing facilities.
Haneda Airport (HND) is located in Ota, Tokyo, Japan. It is one of the two major airports serving the Greater Tokyo Area, along with Narita International Airport. Originally built in 1931, Haneda Airport suffered major damage during World War II. After the war, it reopened as Tokyo International Airport. In 1978, almost all international flights moved to Narita, and Haneda became a domestic airport.
In 2010, Haneda once again began offering many international flights, especially to Asian cities. This was part of an effort to relieve congestion at Narita. Today, Haneda handles most domestic flights and some international flights mainly to major Asian cities. The major airlines operating at Haneda include Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Skymark Airlines, Air Do, and Solaseed Air. Low-cost carriers like Peach, Jetstar Japan, and Vanilla Air also offer flights. In 2022, Haneda served over 52 million passengers, making it the 3rd busiest airport in the world. The airport has continued to expand capacity to handle increasing demand. Haneda offers fast and convenient access to central Tokyo, making it popular with business travelers.
Heathrow Airport, located 14 miles west of Central London, is the busiest airport in Europe and the second busiest in the world in terms of passenger traffic. Originally established in 1929 as a small airfield, Heathrow has grown to become one of the world’s major international aviation hubs. Heathrow has two runways and four passenger terminals – Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5. Terminal 1 closed in 2015 after over 60 years of operation. Terminal 2 is used by Star Alliance members, Terminal 3 by Oneworld, Terminal 4 by SkyTeam and Terminal 5 by British Airways. Some of the major airlines operating out of Heathrow include British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, United Airlines, American Airlines, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines. There are over 80 airlines operating at Heathrow, serving over 180 destinations worldwide.
In 2019, Heathrow served over 80 million passengers, with 81.9 million traveling through the airport in 2018. It has the most international passenger traffic of any airport worldwide. Heathrow has flights to Europe, North America, South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania. Heathrow employs over 75,000 people and generates billions in economic benefits for the UK annually. The airport is owned and operated by Heathrow Airport Holdings. Heathrow has plans for a controversial third runway which is facing opposition over noise and environmental concerns. The ongoing expansion project aims to make Heathrow one of the world’s predominant global aviation hubs.
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) is located between the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. Covering over 30 square miles, it is the largest airport in Texas and the fourth busiest in the world based on passenger traffic. DFW has seven terminals and five runways. It is a major hub for American Airlines and serves over 200 domestic and international destinations. Notable features include an elevated skylink system that connects terminals, a dedicated terminal for American Airlines, and an on-site Hyatt Regency hotel.
The history of DFW dates back to the 1960s when the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth agreed to build a joint airport. After years of planning and development, DFW officially opened in 1974, replacing the smaller Love Field Airport which had previously served the Dallas area. Today, DFW handles over 48 million passengers annually and operates over 1,800 flights per day. It employs over 60,000 workers and contributes an estimated $31 billion in economic impact to the North Texas region. The airport continues to expand, recently completing a $2.7 billion Terminal Renewal and Improvement Program to upgrade its older terminals. DFW is recognized as having an efficient layout and state-of-the-art facilities. Its central location in the middle of the country also makes it an important connecting hub for both domestic and international flights. The airport frequently ranks as one of the best in passenger satisfaction surveys.
Denver International Airport (DEN) is located in Denver, Colorado, United States, covering more land than any other airport in North America. At 53 square miles, Denver International is the largest airport by total land area in the United States and the second largest in the world. Denver International opened in 1995, replacing the old Stapleton International Airport which closed upon the new Denver airport’s opening. DIA has 6 runways and 3 concourses with a total of 127 gates.
Some of the major airlines operating out of Denver International Airport are United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Frontier Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and JetBlue. In 2021, Denver Airport was the 6th busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic, handling over 46.7 million passengers. The airport serves as a major hub for United Airlines and a focus city for Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines. Denver International offers nonstop flights to over 200 destinations in 8 countries.
Istanbul Airport is located in Arnavutköy district on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey. It officially opened in April 2019, replacing the former main Istanbul airport, Atatürk Airport. With a passenger capacity of 200 million per year, Istanbul Airport is one of the largest airports in the world. Its architecturally impressive terminal building spans 1.4 million square meters. The airport has two independent runways and a total of six terminals. Terminal 1 is used by Turkish Airlines and other Star Alliance members, while Terminal 2 serves other international flights. Domestic flights operate out of the remaining four terminals.
Over 60 airlines fly to more than 300 destinations from Istanbul Airport. It served 46.4 million passengers in 2023, making it the 7th busiest airport in the world that year. The airport is strategically located between Europe and Asia, providing connections between the two continents. Its opening transformed Istanbul into a global aviation hub. Istanbul Airport was constructed through a build-operate-transfer model by a consortium of Turkish companies. It represents a $12 billion investment in Turkey’s aviation infrastructure. The airport offers passengers a comfortable, high-tech travel experience. It has thousands of flight display screens, high-speed Wi-Fi, and smartphone-enabled wayfinding. Travelers can conveniently access the airport via public transport like metro, bus, and high-speed rail.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is located in the Westchester neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, about 16 miles from downtown LA. It is the primary airport serving the Greater Los Angeles area. LAX has 9 passenger terminals arranged in a U-shape around the central ticketing and baggage claim area. The terminals are connected by the elevated Airport Metro Connector people mover system. LAX serves over 70 airlines with nonstop flights to over 100 domestic and international destinations. With over 44.5 million passengers in 2023, LAX ranked as the 8th busiest airport in the world. It is the busiest origin and destination airport in the U.S., handling over 2.5 million metric tons of cargo annually.
The history of LAX dates back to 1928 when the Los Angeles City Council selected 640 acres of land in southern Los Angeles to be the site of a new airport. The Los Angeles Municipal Airport opened in 1930 and was renamed Los Angeles International Airport in 1949. Throughout its history, LAX has served as an important airport on the West Coast. During World War II it was a major base for defense industries. In the 1960s the Theme Building and redesigned terminals established its distinctive look. Recent renovations and expansions have prepared LAX for continued growth well into the future.
Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) is located in Chicago, Illinois. With over 43 million passengers in 2023, it’s one of the busiest airports in the world. O’Hare opened in 1955, though the site had been used for aviation since World War II. Today, O’Hare has 4 terminals with nearly 200 gates. It’s a hub for both United Airlines and American Airlines.
O’Hare offers nonstop flights to over 210 destinations in North America, South America, Asia, Europe, Africa and Oceania. It has excellent infrastructure for international arrivals. With its convenient location in downtown Chicago and huge number of flights, O’Hare is one of the most important airports in the world. It handles over 1,100 flights per day. Travelers can easily connect to destinations across the globe.