The top 20 busiest airports in the world by passenger number

Posted: 2 October 2019 | | 9 comments

In this article we review which airports handle the largest number of passengers passing through their terminals each year.

The list below is based on figures from the Airports Council International (ACI). These are their annual statistics from 2018; statistics for 2019 will be available next year.

How are airport passenger numbers calculated?

Airport terminal passenger numbers are calculated by summing the totals of departing passengers, arriving passengers, transferring passengers and direct transit passengers. A passenger who transfers from one flight to another is counted twice by the airport in which they make their transfer. A direct transit passenger is someone whose stops temporarily at an airport and then departs again on a plane with the same flight number. These passengers are counted once.

The top 20 busiest airports in the world

1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport runway

Remaining in pole position, with an increase of 3.3 per cent on 2017, Atlanta may have been bypassed by Chicago O’Hare on aircraft movements, but on passenger numbers, it reigns supreme. Retaining the title since 1997, it looks like ATL is going nowhere for now.

Total passengers: 107,394,029 

2. Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)

Beijing Capital International Airport

Retaining its place at number two, Beijing has seen an increase of over 5 per cent since 2017, but as Beijing Daxing nears completion, competition in the area is surely set to increase. I wonder if we will see more than one Beijing-based airport this time next year?

Total passengers: 100,983,290

3. Dubai International Airport (DXB)

Dubai International Airport

Remaining in the bronze medal position, Dubai continues to grow as an airport. Having welcomed 900,000 passengers in 2018, the steady growth of DXB has seen a 1 per cent increase on 2017’s figures. As Dubai continues to be a very popular holiday destination we expect DXB to remain in the top five for years to come. 

Total passengers: 89,189,387

4. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Los Angeles International Airport

Climbing one place from its 2017 ranking, LAX has overtaken Tokyo. With a rise of 3.5 per cent in passenger numbers, the ‘Gateway to the Pacific Rim’ has regained its 2016 positioning on the list. With the increase in passengers, the airport’s new people mover gets to showcase what it can do. 

Total passengers: 87,534,384

5. Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) 

Tokyo Haneda Airport

Dropping one place, Tokyo saw a rise of a mere 2 per cent in passenger numbers. The Greater Tokyo Area has been ranked as the most populous metropolitan area in the world, not surprising then that the airport remains so highly ranked on this list. 

Total passengers: 87,131,973

6. O’Hare International Airport, Chicago (ORD)

Chicago O'Hare International Airport

Despite ruling the aircraft movement table, here O’Hare sits pretty in sixth for passenger traffic, with an increase of 4.4 per cent. In 2017 the airport served 79.8 million passengers, and with a modernisation programme well underway, the terminals are becoming more suitable for this level of increase to continue. 

Total passengers: 83,339,186

7. London Heathrow (LHR) 

London Heathrow International Airport

Hedging into the top 10, Heathrow saw an increase of 2.7 per cent on 2017. Whilst the controversy continues around the expansion, and the construction of the third runway, it doesn’t seem to have put passengers off travelling through Europe’s largest Hub airport. With Brexit still looming the role LHR will play in a post-Brexit Britain is still uncertain, as with everything surrounding Article 50. 

Total passengers: 80,126,320

8. Hong Kong International Airport (HKA) 

Hong Kong International Airport

Seeing an increase of 2.6 per cent, the world’s largest terminal building has seen a 14.4 per cent decrease in air cargo, but quite the opposite in passenger traffic. The 2030 Hong Kong International Airport Master Plan will see the facilitation of this sustained growth. 

Total passengers: 74,517,402

9. Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) 

Shanghai Pudong International Airport

The busiest international hub in China maintains its position in ninth place from 2017. With an increase of 5.7 per cent, the satellite terminal development plan from 2015 is expected to accommodate a passenger increase of 10 per cent. 

Total passengers: 74,006,331

10. Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) 

Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

The automated baggage sorting system and conveyor to speed luggage delivery time for airlines operating within the hub, and the planned rail connection with CDG Express, all promote the addition of new links, and in turn, welcome new passengers to the terminal, with a 4.0 per cent increase on 2017, CDG is going nowhere from this top 20 anytime soon. 

Total passengers: 72,229,723

11. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) 

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

With the new pier terminal set to be finished this year (2019), the predominantly European flights using it will contribute to the 3.7 per centgrowth that AMS witnessed last year. Schiphol will further expand the terminal and build a fourth departure hall with facilities for both departures and arrivals to facilitate the growth even further. 

Total passengers: 71,053,147

12. Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) 

Indira Gandhi International Airport

With an increase of 10.2 per cent on 2017, the four-step progress that New Delhi Airport has made is incredible considering the airport was new to the top 20 list in 2017, formerly at number 22. With the implementation of Digi Yatra throughout the Indian aviation industry, capacity has been increased significantly without effecting efficiency, as evident in their jump up the list yet again. ACI released its emerging markets numbers, unsurprisingly, India came second on that list. DEL is definitely one to watch. 

Total passengers: 69,900,983

13. Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN) 

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport

According to its master plan, Baiyun Airport will eventually have five runways, compared to its currently three operational runways, one of which can only be used to landings because of a conflict in airspace. The growth of 6.0 per cent on 2017 should be expected to keep rising as the facilities at the airport continue to improve. A third terminal building, located between the third and fifth runways. It is expected that this will all be completed in approximately 2022. 

Total passengers: 69,769,497

14. Frankfurt Airport (FRA) 

Frankfurt Airport

New Terminal 3 is expected to accommodate up to 25 million passengers and will feature 75 new aircraft positions when completely constructed. Its first phase, consisting of the main building and two of the planned four piers is hoped to open in 2023. The 7.8 per cent passenger increase at Frankfurt is reflected in this structural development. 

Total passengers: 69,510,269

15. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) 

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

Falling three places on 2017, DFW has been falling down this list since 2016, when it dropped one place With an increase of 3.0 per cent on 2017, the airport still continues to see growth. With over 200 routes on its cards, DFW joins only a small number of airports with such a prestigious distinction. With so many routes, its no surprise that the airport still ranks to highly on this list. 

Total passengers: 69,112,607

16. Seoul Incheon International Airport (ICN) 

Seoul Incheon International Airport

Up from 19th in 2017, Seoul Incheon has risen quite substantially in a relatively short amount of time. The current 10 per cent growth rate is higher than the other emerging markets, which are in similar parts of the world, which suggests that in years to come we can expect to see Korean airports higher on this list. 

Total passengers: 68,350,784

17. Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IST) 

Istanbul Atatürk Airport

The relocation from Atatürk to Istanbul New Airport is due to take place at the beginning of April. With a rate of growth of 6.4 per cent on 2017, will this change in airports within the same city bring competition which will leave to more than one Istanbul based airport on the list in years to come? 

Total passengers: 68,192,683

18. Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK)

Soekarno-Hatta International Airport

Falling one place on the 2017 numbers, CGK still sees a healthy increase in passengers with a 6.2 per cent passenger increase. Featuring at number seven on the ‘Emerging Markets’ list, Indonesia has seen a massive increase in visitors, as the area has become a tourist destination. As such the airports have had to adapt accordingly. 

Total passengers: 66,908,159

19. Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)Singapore Changi Airport

Dropping one spot on 2017, Changi continues with its descent down this list. With an increase of 5.5 per cent, Changi is still growing and evolving as an airport. With Changi jewel set to open at the beginning of April, I bet we will see Changi shoot further up this list next year, as many passengers will be visiting to witness to Jewel of Changi. 

Total passengers: 65,628,000

20. Denver International Airport (DEN) 

Denver International Airport

DEN is another of the American airports which have over 200 destinations within their portfolio. With an increase of 5.1 per cent, with such great access to the rest of the world, is it any wonder that DEN keeps seeing an increase? With the continued implementation of strategies which increase passenger experience, I imagine DEN is going nowhere from this list fast. 

Total passengers: 64,494,613

9 responses to “The top 20 busiest airports in the world by passenger number”

  1. 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

  4. What would be interesting to note is not how many passengers pass through an airport – but how many of those passengers actually enter the city itself.

  5. Thanks,China appears to be growing steadily.

  6. Eva Manyedi says:

    Amazing! I have recently been to Doha which when I checked I was given an impression that it’s number 6 largest in the world but to my surprise it is not among the top 20! Out of the 20 I have passed through 6, Atlanta and Dubai are amazing!

  7. Sujoy Kar says:

    6 out of the 20! Dubai is class apart in terms of shopping options… Bangkok is another cool airport. Changi and Hong Kong are little over hyped. Outside Asia, loved Sydney and Schiphol – amazing airports!!

  8. Mrityunjay Kumar says:

    Delhi Airport deserved to be in the list. Thank you for including this!

  9. Michael says:

    To me, there is no airport like Heathrow airport, especially Terminal 2, the most beautiful and friendly one! I hope no Brexit will bring it down in years to come.

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