The top 20 largest airports in the world by passenger number 2018

Posted: 9 April 2018 | | 6 comments

Ever wondered which airport processes the most passengers per year? How many of the world’s top 20 are situated in the US? Scroll down to see the list…

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Passenger traffic in the world’s biggest airport is up for yet another year. Almost 1.5 billion flyers passed through the top 20 busiest hubs, a 5.2 per cent rise and 17 per cent of the world total.

According to Angela Gittens, the Director General of ACI World, the increase was down to heightened business and consumer confidence.

“The world’s airports continue to be a vital link in the economic multiplier effect that aviation provides and the role it plays as an enabler for global commerce is growing.

“The universal access to online retail and e-commerce platforms represents a competitive pressure to the traditional brick and mortar retail shops in certain markets but the huge growth in e-commerce has fuelled the air cargo side of the airport business. This has resulted in increased global activity, especially in major markets such as China and the US.”

The criteria we have used are based upon data from Airports Council International for 2017 – defined as passengers enplaned plus passengers deplaned plus direct-transit passengers.

#1 Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport

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

IATA code: ATL

Passenger numbers 2017: 103,902,992

Change from 2016: -0.3%

Atlanta has been firmly fixed to the top spot since 1997 when it took it from the current number six. It retains the title in spite of being the only top 20 airport to actually decrease in traffic. Around 80 per cent of the US population is within a two-hour flight of the airport.

In fact, it is so renowned for its role as a megahub 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 2017: 95,786,442

Change from 2016: +1.5%

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 2017: 88,242,099

Change from 2016: +5.5%

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.

As a major connection point for long-haul international flights, Dubai International Airport is also the world’s busiest in terms of international passengers.

#4 Tokyo Haneda Airport

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

IATA code: HND

Passenger numbers 2017: 85,408,975

Change from 2016: +6.5%

Our first mover, two strong years of growth mean Tokyo Haneda has jumped up one place to steal fourth. It 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.

#5 Los Angeles International Airport

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

IATA code: LAX

Passenger numbers 2017: 84,557,968

Change from 2016: +4.5%

Last year’s number four, dropping a spot doesn’t mean LAX has had a bad year. Not in the least.

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. 

#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 2017: 79,828,183

Change from 2016: +2.4%

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 2017: 78,014,598

Change from 2016: +3%

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 2017: 72,663,955

Change from 2016: +3.4%

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 2017: 70,001,237

Change from 2016: +6.1%

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 2017: 69,471,442

Change from 2016: +5.4%

After a comparatively flat 2016, Paris Charles de Gaulle is back on form. It 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).

#11 Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

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

IATA code: AMS

Passenger numbers 2017: 68,515,425

Change from 2016: +7.7%

Our second upward mover on the list, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol takes the place of our number 12. 

Europe’s fastest growing among the largest in the continent, it is widely considered one of the most technologically-advanced and efficient airports in the world and famously boasts a set of concierge robots. Though growth is down on last year’s 9 per cent, this is still an impressive result.

#12 Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport 

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

IATA code: DFW

Passenger numbers 2017: 67,092,194

Change from 2016: 2.3%

Down but not out, Dallas Fort Worth is the fourth American airport to grace this top 20. Though it has dropped a place, it had a stronger 2017 than it did 2016 when its passenger numbers were only 0.2 per cent up from 2015.

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.

#13 Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport

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

IATA code: CAN

Passenger numbers 2017: 65,887,473

Change from 2016: +10.3%

Formerly number 15, Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport has leapfrogged into its current position with astonishing growth. Its 2016 growth was by no means sluggish meaning this will be one to watch as it creeps its way up. 

#14 Frankfurt Airport

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

IATA code: FRA

Passenger numbers 2017: 64,500,386

Change from 2016: +6.1%

Negative growth in 2016 may have impacted Frankfurt’s position, sliding down one place in spite of a strong 2017. Frankfurt is considered the business airport of certainly Germany and possibly Europe.

#15 Istanbul Atatürk Airport

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

IATA code: IST

Passenger numbers 2017: 63,872,283

Change from 2016: 6%

Another for whom a weak 2016 performance together with Guangzhou Baiyun’s jump has meant a drop of a place. Don’t expect to see Istanbul Ataturk featuring too highly on next year’s list either as its little brother, Istanbul New Airport, makes the scene in the autumn snapping up at least some of its traffic. 

#16 Indira Gandhi International Airport

IATA code: DEL

Passenger numbers 2017: 63,451,503

Change from 2016: 14.1%

Our first newcomer to this list, and snapping up JFK’s spot, welcome Indira Gandhi International, formerly number 22. Delhi’s primary airport, it has seen the biggest rise of any other hub on this list and that’s hardly surprising. India’s thirst for air travel is seemingly insatiable. It will be interesting to see how this top 20 shapes up in the next decade with regards to Indian airports. On a side note, Indira Gandi has knocked out JFK, which no longer has a place at all it seems. 

#17 Soekarno-Hatta International Airport

IATA code: CGK

Passenger numbers 2017: 63,015,620

Change from 2016: 8.3%

Operated by PT Angkasapura II and owned by the Indonesian Government, Soekarno-Hatta International Airport is the main airport for the Greater Jakarta area. It has successfully knocked Singapore Changi from the number 17 spot. Its name is a blend of the first President of Indonesia, Soekarno, who was head of state from 1945 to 1967, and and the first vice-president, Mohammad Hatta, who served from 1945 to 1956. 

#18 Singapore Changi Airport

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

IATA code: SIN

Passenger numbers 2017: 62,220,000

Change from 2016: +6%

A slightly better year than 2016 has not been enough for Singapore to keep its number 17 spot. In March, it was given the Skytrax best airport in the world award for the sixth year in a row.

#19 Seoul Incheon International Airport

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

IATA code: ICN

Passenger numbers 2017: 62,157,834

Change from 2016: +7.5%

Alongside Changi, Korea’s Incheon is an extremely 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 following the 1988 Olympic Games. It has risen by one spot since last year.

#20 Denver International Airport


IATA code: DEN

Passenger numbers 2017: 61,379,396

Change from 2016: +5.3

Denver has dropped two spots since last 2017, even though it has seen two years of solid growth. It is the only airport in the United States to have implemented an ISO 14001-certified environmental management system covering the entire airport.

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? 

6 responses to “The top 20 largest airports in the world by passenger number 2018”

  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!

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