The top 20 largest airports by passenger number | 20 years of International Airport Review

Posted: 6 March 2017 | | 3 comments

Ever wondered which airport processes the most passengers per year? How many of the world’s top 20 are situated in the US? Find out in our latest instalment of the anniversary series…

20th Anniversary of International Airport Review

International Airport Review was founded in 1997 and that means this year marks our 20th Anniversary! To celebrate, we are proud to announce the relaunch of the International Airport Review magazine and website.

As we build up throughout the year to our anniversary issue in the Autumn, we’ll be running a monthly online feature that celebrates the top 20 of all things aviation. Following last month’s review of the world’s top 20 airports we decided to find out which of the world’s airports process the highest number of passengers per annum. 

The criteria we have used are based upon data from Airports Council International for 2016 – defined as passengers enplaned plus passengers deplaned plus direct-transit passengers.

We hope you enjoy and invite you to celebrate 20 years of International Airport Review with us.

#1 Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport largest airport in world by passenger numbers

IATA code: ATL

Passenger numbers 2016: 104,171,935

% increase from 2015: +2.6

Atlanta has been firmly fixed to the top spot and is widely considered the US hub certainly when connecting internally within the United States. In fact, it is so renowned for handling millions of passengers effectively that in a parody Star Wars episode of “Family Guy“, Stewie Griffin, playing Darth Vader, joked that “Even though we’re in a galaxy far, far away, we still had to connect in Atlanta.”

#2 Beijing Capital International Airport 

Beijing Capital International Airport - 2nd largest airport in the world by passenger number

IATA code: PEK

Passenger numbers 2016: 94,393,000

% increase from 2015: +5

Of the staggering 182 commercial airports in China, the world’s most populous nation, Beijing’s biggest is comfortably the largest and became the busiest airport in Asia in terms of passenger traffic and total traffic movements by 2009 after a rapid ascension of development over the last decade or so. 

#3 Dubai International Airport 

Dubai International Airport - 3rd largest airport in the world by passenger number

IATA code: DXB

Passenger numbers 2016: 83,654,250

% increase from 2015: +7.2

Aside from passenger numbers, Dubai International is a huge – and we mean Burj Khalifa huge – contributor to Dubai’s economy, as it employs approximately 90,000 people, indirectly supports over 400,000 jobs and contributes over US$26.7 billion to the economy.

#4 Los Angeles International Airport

Los Angeles LAX airport - 4th largest airport in the world by passenger number

IATA code: LAX

Passenger numbers 2016: 80,921,527

% increase from 2015: +8

The iconic LAX is the second largest US airport and attracts and handles a lot of Hollywood’s biggest names. LAX is considered by many to be the main ‘Gateway to the Pacific Rim’ and has strong connections with Latin America and Asia. 

#5  Tokyo Haneda Airport

Tokyo Haneda Airport - 5th largest airport in the world by passenger number

IATA code: HND

Passenger numbers 2016: 79,520,000

% increase from 2015: +5.6

Tokyo Haneda is the primary base of Japan’s two major domestic airlines, Japan Airlines (Terminal 1) and All Nippon Airways (Terminal 2). Tokyo as a city has the third busiest city airport system in the world, after London and New York City.

#6 O’Hare International Airport, Chicago

O'Hare International Airport Chicago - 6th largest airport in the world by passenger number

IATA code: ORD

Passenger numbers 2016: 77,960,588

% increase from 2015: +1.3

Did you know that O’Hare was actually the busiest airport by number of takeoffs and landings in 2014, topping its US rival Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport only to lose the title to Atlanta a year on.

#7 London Heathrow

London Heathrow - 7th largest airport in the world by passenger number

IATA code: LHR

Passenger numbers 2016: 75,671,863

% increase from 2015: +0.9

Europe’s biggest hub, LHR recently got the go ahead from the British government to expand and build a third runway in a controversial decision made in October. It is thought that in light of Brexit, Heathrow will have to play a significant role in presenting the UK as ‘open for business’.

#8 Hong Kong International Airport

Hong Kong International - 8th largest airport in the world by passenger number

IATA code: HKG

Passenger numbers 2016: 70,502,000

% increase from 2015: +2.9

Located on the island of Chek Lap Kok, which largely comprises land reclaimed for the construction of the airport itself, Hong Kong International recently surpassed Memphis International to become the world’s busiest airport according to cargo traffic.

#9 Shanghai Pudong International Airport

Shanghai Pudong International Airport - 9th largest airport in the world by passenger number

IATA code: PVG

Passenger numbers 2016: 65,982,100

% increase from 2015: +9.9

One of the world’s biggest and fastest growing airports, Shanghai’s main airport deals predominantly with international flights and connections. A recent $400 million expansion project was completed in 2015 and is thought to have doubled the airport’s capacity. 

#10 Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport - 10th largest airport in the world by passenger number

IATA code: CDG

Passenger numbers 2016: 65,933,145

% increase from 2015: +0.3

Paris Charles de Gaulle remains one of the world’s busiest supporting the world’s most visited nation (with 83.7 million international tourists visiting the country in 2014 alone) despite slow growth. Many commentators attribute a drop in tourist numbers to consumer fears of terrorism. 

#11 Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport 

Dallas Fort Worth Airport - 11th largest airport in the world by passenger number

IATA code: DFW

Passenger numbers 2016: 65,670,697

% increase from 2015: +0.2

As of February 2017, DFW Airport offered services to 214 destinations, and so in surpassing 200 destinations, the Texan airport joined an exclusive group with that distinction.

#12 Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport - 12th largest airport in the world by passenger number

IATA code: AMS

Passenger numbers 2016: 63,625,664

% increase from 2015: +9.2

Europe’s fastest growing among the largest in the continent, Schiphol is widely considered one of the most technologically-advanced and efficient airports in the world and famously boasts a set of concierge robots. 

#13 Frankfurt Airport

Frankfurt Airport - 13th largest airport in the world by passenger number

IATA code: FRA

Passenger numbers 2016: 60,786,937

% increase from 2015: -0.4

The first negative grower in the top 20, Frankfurt is considered as the business airport of certainly Germany and possibly Europe. A major financial capital, Frankfurt Airport served 297 destinations  as of summer 2015, making it the airport with the most international destinations in the world.

#14 Istanbul Atatürk Airport

Istanbul Atatürk Airport - 14th largest airport in the world by passenger number

IATA code: IST

Passenger numbers 2016: 60,119,215

% increase from 2015: -2.0

Another negative grower, unfortunately this too is largely anticipated to be a result of wider political issues though Istanbul still welcomes significant traffic and is one of the most visited and beautiful cities in the world.

#15 Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport - 15th largest airport in the world by passenger number

IATA code: CAN

Passenger numbers 2016: 59,780,000

% increase from 2015: +8.3

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport now enjoys three runways, the third runway opened in 2015 though can only be used for landings. 

#16 John F. Kennedy International Airport

John F Kennedy JFK Airport - 16th largest airport in the world by passenger number

IATA code: JFK

Passenger numbers 2016: 58,956,288

% increase from 2015: +3.6

Another iconic US airport, New York JFK is the busiest international passenger gateway into the United States. The airport was renamed in 1963 after the 35th President of the United States, following his assassination. 

#17 Singapore Changi Airport

Changi Airport - 17th largest airport in the world by passenger number

IATA code: SIN

Passenger numbers 2016: 58,698,000

% increase from 2015: +5.9

Perhaps the world’s best airport, certainly if its consistent victory in the annual Skytrax awards is to be acknowledged. Changi has picked up a total of 500 awards since 1981, including 28 “Best Airport” awards in just 2015 alone. 

#18 Denver International Airport

Denver International Airport - 18th largest airport in the world by passenger number

IATA code: DEN

Passenger numbers 2016: 58,300,000

% increase from 2015: +8.1

Denver is the only airport in the United States to have implemented an ISO 14001-certified environmental management system covering the entire airport.

#19 Seoul Incheon International Airport

Seoul Incheon Airport - 19th largest airport in the world by passenger number

IATA code: ICN

Passenger numbers 2016: 57,765,397

% increase from 2015: +16.9

Alongside Changi, Korea’s Incheon is an extrenelky effective manager of its passengers and claims a 0.0001% baggage mishandling rate. As well as this staggering claim, the Korean hub has been growing at an exponential rate since its construction folowing the 1988 Olympic Games

#20 Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport - 20th largest airport in the world by passenger number

IATA code: BKK

Passenger numbers 2016: 55,892,428

% increase from 2015: +4.1

One of the youngest on the list, Suvarnabhumi was officially opened for limited domestic flight service on 15 September 2006 and for most domestic and all international commercial flights on 28 September 2006.

And so that concludes our latest instalment in the ongoing anniversary series.

Why not check out which airports we included in our Top 20 world airports compilation? 

3 responses to “The top 20 largest airports by passenger number | 20 years of International Airport Review”

  1. Phillip Fine says:

    Although Atlanta remains in no. 1 spot, Beijing and Dubai are nipping at Atlanta’s feet! Moreover, it’s interesting that the bulk of Atlanta’s arrivals and departures come from domestic, and not foreign, flights. It’s also interesting that Dubai has grown so quickly that it now eclipses LAX!


    It is amazing how top International Airport have the most in infrastructure both in facilities and technologies all over the world.
    Passengers are requering more and more services and these 20 selected airports have them all. New services and technologies the very most important facts to serve and satisfy Internation al passenger…and I havehad the experience to be in Dallas Fortworth,TX DFW-US, twice while I was in American Airlines Learnig Center- Flagship University-today.
    Really, I was astonished and surprised for all of it.

  3. Diana Tohm says:

    I’m surprised u didn’t mention Bush International Airport in Houston Texas to be among the top 20 businesses whether it’s domestic and international airports. I’m a flighattendant 14 years with British Airways and always fly out of Bush. Bush is my home hub because I married an American.I’m originally from Oxford England

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