What do you think is the world’s busiest airport? The answer is…. it depends.
In 2014, the busiest airport could be either Atlanta, Chicago, Dubai or London, depending on what you are measuring or who you are asking.
It all comes down to how you define “busiest.” And there are two primary ways to measure it: By the number of passengers flying through the airport, or by the number of aircraft taking off and landing at the airports.
Looking at overall passenger numbers — international and domestic — the top four airports worldwide held the same rankings in 2014 as the previous year: Atlanta at first place with 96.2 million, Beijing in second place with 86.1 million, Heathrow in third at 73.4 million and Tokyo Haneda in fourth with 72.8 million. (It’s interesting to note that Haneda is much busier than Narita, which has wider global visibility.)
Now, let’s look at the other way of measuring “busiest.” In terms of number of flights or “aircraft movements,” U.S. airports continue to dominate the global rankings. Chicago O’Hare (with its abundance of smaller regional jet flights) came in at first place, followed by Atlanta, Los Angeles and Dallas/Ft. Worth. After fifth-place Beijing came Denver, Charlotte, Las Vegas and Houston, in that order, with London Heathrow rounding out the top 10.
But if you measure busiest by the number of international travelers, Dubai now holds that title. Although Dubai (DXB) is the sixth-busiest airport in the world in overall passenger traffic, last year it became the world’s busiest in terms of international passenger traffic, beating out of London-Heathrow (LHR) and Hong Kong (HKG). Istanbul (IST), where Turkish Airlines is on a growth spurt, was one of the fastest growing, increasing international passenger numbers 11 percent and moving from 18th to 13th rank.
And here’s one more way to measure busiest– by metropolitan area. London remains the world’s largest airport system with almost 147 million passengers handled at six airports in and around its metropolitan area. The New York area has the second busiest airport system, followed by Tokyo.
Despite these numbers, the overall growth trend in passenger traffic is shifting away from North America and Europe. Airports in the Middle East posted a growth rate of 10.8 percent last year, and Asia-Pacific airports were in second place at 7.1 percent. By contrast, passenger numbers at North American airports rose an anemic 3.2 percent, while Europe managed a 5.5 percent increase.
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