Atlanta Still the Busiest Airport, and Beijing Just Hit 100 Million Passengers

Mar 14, 2019

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Another year, another crown for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). It is yet again the world’s busiest airport, according to Airports Council International (ACI) World’s preliminary airport traffic rankings covering passenger traffic, cargo volumes and aircraft movements.

In fact, the top three from the prior year have all remained unchanged, with Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) and Dubai International Airport (DXB) grabbing the silver and bronze, respectively. Dubai managed to grab the top spot when looking at total international passenger traffic for 2018, followed by London (LHR), Hong Kong (HKG), Amsterdam (AMS) and Seoul (ICN).

Delta and Southwest jets dominate the scene at the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta. (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

Atlanta’s total passenger traffic grew by 3.3%, swelling to 107 million for full-year 2018. It represented the fourth year in a row that ATL served more than 100 million passengers. Five of the top 20 and three of the top 10 were based in the United States, including Los Angeles (LAX), Chicago (ORD), Dallas–Ft. Worth (DFW) and Denver (DEN).

Behind Atlanta, Beijing (PEK) surpassed the 100 million passengers mark and grew by 5.4%. Of course, aviation in general has been booming in China. It took Boeing four decades to reach its first 1,000 deliveries, but with China’s rapid growth rates, it added 1,000 more in just five years. Boeing says that currently one out of every four aircraft it’s producing is headed to China.

However, with the upcoming opening of the new Beijing airport, Daxing, the current one — which will split flights with Daxing — won’t threaten to take the top spot from Atlanta.

The top 20 airports in terms of passenger traffic all saw year-over-year growth, with Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi (DEL) and Incheon International Airport in Seoul (ICN) rising the most at 10.2% and 10%, respectively.

ACI World Director General Angela Gittens, said the following: “With the cost of travel decreasing in many markets, and a burgeoning middle class growing in emerging markets, passenger traffic growth has remained irrepressible. Indeed, ACI’s global medium-term forecasts reveal growth in demand for air services between 2018 to 2023 will grow by almost 30%. This means many national governments face the predicament of demand outstripping available airport infrastructure.”

Away from passenger terminals, massive jet engines are repaired at operations centers at ATL (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)
Away from passenger terminals, massive jet engines are repaired at operations centers at ATL (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

For a behind-the-scenes look at the world’s busiest airport, be sure to check out our tour of Delta’s TechOps facility at its headquarters. If you find yourself at ATL with time to spare, you can satisfy your inner AvGeek with a visit to the nearby Delta Flight Museum.

Featured photo by the author. 

This story has been amended to reflect the upcoming opening of a new airport in Beijing.

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