Terminal Velocity: These Are the 20 Busiest Airports in the World

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Busy airport.
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When you’re in a rush, any airport can seem like the world’s busiest airport.

But those that really make the top 20 busiest airports list are mostly bustling, big-city airports, often in hub cities where several airlines concentrate their flight operations. These aren’t always the airports of your final destination, but they may be where you have a scheduled layover before transferring to another flight.

The new list of the world’s 20 busiest airports was released in April by Airports Council International, a nonprofit group representing the world’s airports. A familiar airport tops the list once again, while airports in India and China continue to climb the charts. Overall, passenger traffic at the 20 busiest airports grew by 5.2 percent, and the 20 airports listed below represent a full 17 percent of global passenger traffic.

Make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Sit back, relax and enjoy your flight through our slideshow of the top 20 busiest airports.

20. Denver International Airport

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More than 61 million passengers passed through Denver’s strikingly designed airport in 2017. That sounds like a lot, but just wait. The airport in the No.1 spot accommodates more than twice that traffic.

19. Incheon International Airport, South Korea

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Incheon International, the largest airport in South Korea, came in at No. 19 with almost 62.2 million passengers in 2017.

18. Singapore Changi Airport

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Singapore Changi Airport, the home base of Singapore Airlines and one of the largest transportation hubs in Southeast Asia, saw more than 62.2 million passengers in 2017.

17. Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Jakarta, Indonesia

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Soekarno–Hatta International Airport just west of Jakarta, Indonesia, saw more than 63 million passengers in 2017. But that’s nothing compared to its future plans: The Jakarta Post reports that the airport operator is acquiring more land and plans to boost capacity to serve 100 million by 2025.

16. Indira Gandhi International, Delhi, India

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Indira Gandhi International is the busiest airport in the second-most populous country in the world, and it’s only growing. In 2017, 63.4 million passengers came through — a 14.1 percent jump over 2016, when it didn’t even make the top 20 list (coming in then at No. 22).

15. Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Turkey

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Turkey’s largest airport comes in at No.15 on the list with more than 63.8 million passengers. But that number could look modest in the near future: Istanbul New Airport is under construction and set to open in fall of 2018 to replace Ataturk. The new airport could eventually serve 200 million passengers a year, and is planned to become the world’s largest.

14. Frankfurt Airport, Germany

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Frankfurt Airport, Germany’s largest in that nation’s fifth-largest city, logged 64.5 million passengers in 2017.

13. Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, China

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With more than 65.8 million passengers served in 2017, Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport is No. 13 on the list, but only the third-largest in China.

12. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

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Dallas/Fort Worth International served 67 million passengers in 2017, but, on a list where most airports saw double-digit growth, DFW only saw a 2.3 percent increase in traffic since 2016.

11. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

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Amsterdam Airport Schiphol comes in at No. 11 with more than 68.5 million passengers traveling through in 2017. Those numbers are certainly bolstered by the fact that it’s the hub for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

10. Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris

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Vive la France! Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport lands at No. 10 on the list, serving more than 69.4 million passengers in 2017.

9. Shanghai Pudong International Airport, China

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Shanghai Pudong International Airport is the busiest international airport in mainland China, with half of its traffic coming from international travelers. Those fliers helped it top 70 million passengers served in 2017.

8. Hong Kong International Airport

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Hong Kong International Airport not only comes in at No. 8 on the list, with more than 72.6 million passengers in 2017, but it grabs the blue ribbon for air-cargo traffic. More than 5 million metric tons of cargo were loaded and unloaded at the Chinese airport in 2017, a jump of 9.4 percent from 2016.

7. Heathrow Airport, London

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London Heathrow is Europe’s busiest airport, coming in at No. 7 in the world, with 78 million passengers served. It’s named for a small hamlet that was demolished in 1944 so the airport could be built.

6. O’Hare International Airport, Chicago

Chicago O'Hare International Airport
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The Windy City of Chicago is home to O’Hare International, which is United Airlines’ largest hub as well as the third-largest hub for American Airlines. More than 79.8 million passengers flew through O’Hare in 2017.

5. Los Angeles International Airport

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Commonly known as LAX, Los Angeles international is the second-busiest U.S. airport. In 2017, 84.5 million passengers flew through the City of Angels’ main airport.

4. Haneda Airport, Tokyo

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Non-Japanese travelers may be more familiar with Narita Airport, which handles the majority of that country’s international passengers. But it’s Haneda, Tokyo’s “other” airport, that comes in at No. 4, with 85.4 million passengers in 2017.

3. Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates

Dubai International Airport
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Sprawling Dubai International Airport in the U.A.E. is the hub for Emirates, the Middle East’s largest airline. In 2017, 88.2 million passengers used the airport. Its Terminal 3 is the largest airport terminal in the world.

2. Beijing Capital International Airport

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The third Chinese airport on the list, Beijing Capital International, almost made it to the No. 1 spot — but had to settle for No. 2, serving more than 95.7 million passengers in 2017.

1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
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Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport takes its hyphenated name from two former mayors of Atlanta, Georgia. It’s not only No. 1 on the world’s-busiest-airport list, but is the only airport to serve more than 100 million passengers in 2017 — logging a whopping 103.9 million. However, it’s also the only airport whose passenger traffic declined in 2017, with a 0.3 percent drop. That said, Atlanta, you’re still No. 1.

What’s your experience with these airports? Do you have favorites? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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