The top 20 busiest airports accounted for 17% of all passenger traffic in 2017; the Airports International Council (ACI) reported a total of 1.5 billion travellers flew in 2017 (a 6.6% increase on previous years). As the air travel market rapidly increases, airports have recognised the need to present their spaces not only as first-world mega hubs for international travel but as welcoming destinations that encourage passengers to stay longer. And while airports continue to facilitate economic growth, their facilities and services are beginning to stretch beyond aviation. Here’s the list of the most-visited airports in the world:
In first place, the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) saw 104 million passengers come and go, both internationally and domestically in 2017. With 2,500 flights and 275,000 passengers a day, this unassuming airport is home to such enormous volumes of passenger traffic due to its prime location. Although Atlanta is ranked the 7th most visited city for business, its location for 80% of Americans is only a 2-hour flight away, thereby making it the perfect destination for connecting flights. In addition, Delta airlines (the second largest airline in America) is headquartered in Atlanta and thus many of their flights are directed through Hartsfield-Jackson. It comes as no surprise then that Hartsfield-Jackson will undergo a $6 billion expansion and upgrade to its facilities over the next 20 years.
However, when considering only international travellers, Dubai international airport is the busiest with 89 million international passengers passing through their terminals in 2018. Following a similar strategy to Delta, a large portion of flights are the result of long-haul Emirates flights directed through Dubai, however, there is no shortage of diversity in their high amounts of traffic thanks to the 75 other airlines landing there. Whilst the high traffic volume in Dubai international airport is an economic strategy, the advantageous location between Africa, Asia and Europe makes Dubai a logical pit-stop. Peak traffic is expected in the weeks surrounding Christmas, with up to 100,000 passengers expected per day during the busy holiday period.
The next busiest airports are found in Asia: Beijing Capital International Airport saw 95 million passengers passing through their busy terminals, whilst Tokyo Haneda International Airport saw 85 million travellers in 2017. Asian airports are unique as their futuristic terminals are exciting destinations in their own right. Singapore’s Changi Airport was recently voted best in the world thanks to its wide range of facilities offered; from outstanding dining, shopping and leisure, the 62 million passengers served each year can marvel at incredible art installations, swim in the rooftop pool or wander through indoor butterfly gardens. The East is well-known for their ingenious use of modern technology, of which there is no shortage of in their airports: terminal 2 of Incheon airport in Seoul is known for their use of robots to assist with check-in, boarding, navigation and cleaning.
As the number of people flying grows each year, airports must endeavour to streamline all of their processes to accommodate the sheer weight of passenger traffic. In many cases, this streamlining needs to start on the highways leading into the airport where gridlock is becoming more common and affecting the road traffic in the cities surrounding airports.