The world’s 10 busiest airports in 2021

About 4.5 billion people will fly in 2021, according to the latest report from Airports Council International (ACI). That in itself may seem like a lot, but it was about half of the 9.1 billion that flew in 2019.

The world’s 10 busiest airports

Atlanta is again the world’s busiest airport, regaining the top spot after falling to second place in 2020. It ended last year with 75.7 million passengers and was one of eight US airports on the top ten list, as shown below.

Two airports in China also have. Like all airports in the table, their traffic levels were lower than in 2019. However, they are also lower than in 2020, which shows how badly affected the country continues to be.


Beijing Capital, Dubai International, Tokyo Haneda, London Heathrow, Shanghai Pudong and Paris CDG were all on the list in 2019, but are no longer. They have been replaced by Denver, Charlotte, Orlando International, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Las Vegas.

The top ten airports in 2021 all had significant domestic operations, and they benefit from the much higher demand than international given far fewer restrictions. The importance of leisure places is also clear to see. Orlando was 7th (up from 31st in 2019) and Las Vegas 10th (from 30th).

2021 rankings Airport 2021 % change compared to 2020 % change compared to 2019
1 Atlanta 75,704,760 76.4 -31.5
2 Dallas Fort Worth 62,465,756 58.7 -16.8
3 Denver 58,828,552 74.4 -14.8
4 Chicago O’Hare 54,020,339 75.1 -36.2
5 The angels 48,007,284 66.8 -45.5
6 Charlotte 43,302,230 59.2 -13.4
7 Orlando International 40,351,068 86.7 -20.3
8 Guangzhou 40,259,401 -8.0 -45.1
9 Chengdu 40,117,496 -1.5 -28.2
10 Las Vegas 39,754,366 78.6 -23.1

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The world’s 10 international airports

Of course, the results are very different if you only look at international passenger traffic. Dubai International was again number one, although it has one of the lowest levels of traffic recovery compared to 2019. Still, it has been helped by having relatively minimal COVID restrictions and the huge amount of Emirates and partner flydubai.

Not a single airport in the Far East was included in the list. Unlike in 2019, there was no Hong Kong, Seoul Incheon, Singapore, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi or Taipei. Some continue to suffer tremendously in 2022, none more so than Hong Kong.

In contrast, Istanbul Airport was particularly strong for international traffic. It rose to second place, the highest ever, up from 6th place in 2020 and 14th place in 2019. While passengers remained down by a third, its recovery continued strongly, mainly thanks to Turkish Airlines’ continued improvement.

But the true standouts are Antalya (in 8th place, up from 26th place in 2019) and CancĂșn (10th, from 61st). It is hard to understand that the Turkish report on Antalya had almost as many international passengers as London Heathrow, usually number two in the world. Of course, this is only temporary.

The ever-popular Mexican resort of CancĂșn saw a massive influx of additional U.S. seats for sale in 2021, an increase of three million. It had minimal limitations and was quick, easy and fairly inexpensive to reach. Several airlines grew, particularly JetBlue, American, Spirit, Frontier and Delta, with 111 routes in total.

2021 rankings Airport 2021 % change compared to 2020 % change compared to 2019
1 Dubai International 29,110,609 12.7 -66.3
2 Istanbul airport 26,466,169 66.0 -33.1
3 Amsterdam 25,488,783 22.1 -64.4
4 Frankfurt 22,697,490 34.8 -64.0
5 Paris CDG 22,697,490 18.7 -67.6
6 Doha 17,701,978 41.4 -54.4
7 London Heathrow 17,624,931 -14.7 -76.8
8 Antalya 17,148,111 160.4 -40.3
9 Madrid 15,337,775 38.8 -65.9
10 Cancun 13,216,951 94.5 -19.7

Do you want to fly to any of these airports this year? Tell us in the comments.


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