In this article, we will look at 21 largest airports in the world. If you want to see more of the largest airports in the world, go directly to The 5 largest airports in the world.
Airports are the hub of air transport, as passenger and cargo planes take off and land from them.
Airports help businesses connect and people move. In many cases, airports are essential because they are the fastest and most economical way for people to move from one place to another. While a trip from New York to England, for example, would take about a week by ship, the average trip from New York to London only takes about 7 hours by plane.
Big airports can mean big business for many cities, as they can facilitate economic activity, such as increasing demand for hotels, taxis and restaurants.
According to the 2021 Airport Traffic Report by the Port Authority of New York and New York City, New York’s largest airport, JFK, plays a significant role in New York’s regional economy. In addition to employing 34,850 people directly, JFK Airport contributes to $42 billion in economic activity in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area and supports a total of approximately 195,000 jobs. According to the same report, Newark Liberty International Airport generates $29.3 billion in annual economic activity and supports 128,000 jobs.
The largest airports in the world
Some of the biggest airports are gigantic.
In 2019, before the pandemic, JFK Airport handled 62.55 million passengers, including 34.3 million international passengers. In 2021, JFK Airport handled 30.7 million passengers as air travel began to recover.
Given that it has the largest economy in the world, the US has many of the largest airports in the world, including the largest overall. Given its large population and second largest economy, China has some of the largest airports in the world.
Companies that own airports
Because building large airports costs a lot of capital, many airports are built or subsidized by governments. Given that private companies can sometimes realize greater efficiencies than governments, some airports that were originally built by governments have subsequently been privatized.
As a result, companies such as Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited own and operate the UK’s largest airport, Heathrow Airport, and companies such as Auckland International Airport Limited (ASX:AIA.AX) own an airport in Auckland, New Zealand.
In terms of the airport business, many private airport companies have not fully recovered from the pandemic in terms of revenue, as passenger traffic has not fully recovered from the pandemic.
The pandemic and traffic recovery
At many public airports, passenger traffic has not fully recovered from the pandemic. However, current passenger traffic is higher than what it was in 2020, and many analysts believe that passenger traffic will be even higher in a year or two.
According to data from the World Economic Forum, total passenger numbers in 2021 reached 47% of 2019 levels, with international passengers at 27% of pre-pandemic levels. In 2022, the industry recovered further, with industry-wide passenger numbers reaching 83% of 2019 levels. For the year, international passengers reached 69% of pre-pandemic levels and domestic air travel reached 93%.
While analysts expect air traffic to increase further, the future depends on consumer behavior, economic conditions and the ongoing pandemic. If there is a worse-than-expected recession, for example, the time to pre-pandemic levels could be longer than expected. For those of you interested, also check out the 15 largest airlines in the world in 2022.
For our list of the world’s 21 largest airports, we used the 2021 Airport Traffic Report from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for the world’s top 60 airports, ranked by passenger traffic for 2021.
21 largest airports in the world
#21 Kunming International Airport
2021 Number of passengers: 32,221,295
Kunming International Airport is an airport serving the capital city of Yunnan Province in China, Kunming. Considering that China has 1.4 billion people and the second largest economy in the world, Kunming International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world with over 32.2 million passengers passing through in 2021. Considering the expected growth of China’s middle class, Kunming International Airport is likely to handle even more passengers in the future.
#20 Beijing Capital International Airport
2021 Number of passengers: 32,639,029
Beijing Capital International Airport is the busiest airport in China’s capital city with over 32.6 million passengers crossing the airport in 2021. Originally built as a gateway to Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing Capital International Airport is very advanced technologically and operational with an aerodynamic roof and welcoming architecture. Beijing Capital International Airport is number 20 on our list of the 21 largest airports in the world.
#19 Hongqiao International Airport
2021 Number of passengers: 33,207,337
Hongqiao International Airport is one of two airports serving the major Chinese city of Shanghai along with Shanghai Pudong International Airport. Hongqiao International Airport is located near the city of Hongqiao, which is about 8 miles west of downtown Shanghai. The airport handled over 33.2 million passengers in 2021.
#18 Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport
2021 Number of passengers: 35,766,284
Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport is another Chinese airport that makes our list of the 21 largest airports in the world. The airport is located about 12 miles north of the center of the Chinese city of Chongqing and is a hub for many Chinese airlines. Although not as famous as Beijing or Shanghai, Chongqing is a huge city with over 30 million people.
#17 Mexico City International Airport
2021 Number of passengers: 36,056,614
Mexico City International Airport is the largest airport in Mexico’s capital, Mexico City. With over 36 million passengers passing through it, the airport is a major contributor to the city’s economy. Mexico City International Airport is also the busiest airport in Mexico and Latin America.
#16 Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
2021 Number of passengers: 36,154,015
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is Seattle’s largest airport. Historically, the airport has been one of the fastest growing airports in the United States with a steady increase in international flights over the past decade. As a result of its growth, more than 36.1 million passengers passed through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in 2021.
#15 Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport
2021 Number of passengers: 36,358,185
Shenzhen Baoan International Airport is the largest airport in China’s technology hub, Shenzhen. Given Shenzhen’s economic growth, the airport plans to have a long-term traffic of 100 million passengers by 2030, up from about 36.4 million passengers in 2021 and 52.93 million in 2019. Shenzhen is one of the richest cities in China in terms of GDP per capita.
#14 Istanbul International Airport
2021 Number of passengers: 36,988,067
Istanbul International Airport is one of three airports serving Turkey’s capital, Istanbul. However, of the three, Istanbul International Airport is the newest and largest with almost 37 million passengers passing through in 2021. In the long term, the airport is planned to handle up to 200 million passengers as the airport can be a major transportation hub connecting Europe, Asia and Africa.
#13 Indira Gandhi International Airport
2021 Number of passengers: 37,139,957
Indira Gandhi International Airport is the largest airport in India serving the country’s capital, New Delhi. With a throughput capacity of over 37.1 million in 2021, the airport connects India to many major economic centers around the world that could boost economic growth. Given India’s population of almost 1.4 billion people and its rapid rate of economic growth, it is likely that Indira Gandhi International Airport will serve significantly more people in the future.
#12 Miami International Airport
2021 Number of passengers: 37,302,456
Miami International Airport is one of the busiest airports for international travelers, with more flights to Latin America and the Caribbean than any other airport in the US. Located in Miami and with over 37.3 million passengers passing through in 2021, Miami International Airport is a leading economic driver for Miami-Date County, generating $31.9 billion in business revenue annually.
#11 Sky Harbor International Airport
2021 Number of passengers: 38,846,713
Sky Harbor International Airport is the primary airport in the Greater Phoenix area, with approximately 1,200 daily flights serving over 120 domestic and international destinations. In 2021, the airport had a throughput of over 38.8 million people, dwarfing the population of Phoenix, which has only about 1.625 million residents.
#10 Harry Reid International Airport
2021 Number of passengers: 39,754,366
Harry Reid International Airport is the largest airport in Las Vegas with over 39.7 million passengers passing through. The airport is also known as Las Vegas Airport and was formerly known as McCarran International Airport. Given its significant traffic, Harry Reid International Airport ranks 10th on our list of the 21 largest airports in the world.
#9 Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport
2021 Number of passengers: 40,117,496
Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport is the main airport of the Chinese city of Chengdu, which has a population of over 16.3 million people. Located about 10 miles from the city center, the airport served over 40.1 million passengers in 2021. Given its location, the airport is an important hub for many domestic flights in China.
#8 Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport
2021 Number of passengers: 40,259,401
Guangzhou Bai Yun International Airport is the main airport serving the city of Guangzhou in China. As the main hub of China Southern Airlines, the airport receives a lot of traffic with over 40.2 million passengers passing through in 2021. As far as airports go, Guangzhou Bai Yun International Airport is relatively new having opened in 2004.
#7 Orlando International Airport
2021 Number of passengers: 40,351,068
Orlando International Airport is the primary airport for Orlando and the busiest airport in Florida with over 40 million passengers passing through in 2021. The airport offers non-stop service connecting Orlando to more than 150 destinations worldwide, including more domestic destinations than any other airport in Florida.
#6 Charlotte Douglas International Airport
2021 Number of passengers: 43,302,230
Charlotte Douglas International Airport averages 1,424 arrivals and departures each day in addition to a throughput capacity of 43,302,230 passengers in 2021. The airport offers nonstop air service to 184 destinations worldwide and is home to eight major air carriers as well as 15 regional carriers .
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Disclosure: None. 21 largest airports in the world was originally published on Insider Monkey.