Airports Council International (ACI) World published the top 10 busiest airports worldwide for 2021 showing encouraging signs of traffic recovery as many previous busiest airports re-join top ranks.
The world airport rankings are based on the preliminary compilation of 2021 global data from airports around the world. Due to ACI’s reach as the trade association of the world’s airports, the rankings reflect the most updated airport data used by the industry and include passenger traffic, cargo volumes and aircraft movements.
Total global passengers in 2021 is estimated to be close to 4.5 billion, representing an increase of almost 25% from 2020, or a drop of more than 50% from 2019 results.
Passenger traffic at the top 10 busiest airports, representing collectively almost 10% of global traffic (463 million passengers), witnessed a gain of 51.8% from 2020, or a drop of 29.1% vis-à-vis their 2019 results.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL, 75.7 million passengers, +76.4%) is back at the top of 2021 rankings, followed by Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW, 62.5 million passengers, +58.7%), and Denver International Airport (DEN, 58.8 million passengers, +74.4%). After reaching the top rank in 2020, Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN, 40.3 million passengers, -8.0%) slid to the eighth position in 2021.
Eight of the top 10 airports for passenger traffic are in the United States with the two remaining in China. All top 10 airports have a significant share of domestic traffic, the traffic segment that has been leading global recovery. The biggest improvement recorded was from Orlando International Airport (MCO, 40.4 million passengers, +86.7%) that jumped from 27th position in 2020 to seventh spot in 2021.
“The ACI World passenger traffic rankings tell the story of an encouraging trend of recovery, with most of the recurrent busiest airports pre-COVID-19 back at the top,” ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said. “Although we are cautious that recovery could face multiple headwinds, the momentum created by reopening plans by countries could lead to an uptick in travel in the second half of 2022.
“As such, ACI World continues to advocate to governments to follow the data and ease travel restrictions to safely restore the movement of people, goods, and services. This will provide travelers with more travel options and propel the overall recovery through aviation’s unique role in boosting trade, tourism, investment and creating jobs.”
Cargo and Aircraft Movements
Air cargo, which was less impacted by COVID-19, had its volumes increase by close to 15% year-over-year (+3.5% versus 2019), to an estimated record 124 million metric tonnes in 2021.
Air cargo volumes at the top 10 airports, representing collectively around 25% (31.5 million metric tonnes) of the global volumes in 2021, gained 12.1% in 2021 year-over-year (or 15.0% vs. 2019 results). The gain can be attributed to the continued increase in demand for online consumer goods and pharmaceutical products.
Hong Kong International Airport (HKG, 5.0 million metric tonnes, +12.5%) gained back the top rank and Memphis International Airport (MEM, 4.5 million metric tonnes, -2.9%) went back to second position, followed by Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG, 4.0 million metric tonnes, +8.0%) in third.
ACI World estimates that there were over 69 million global aircraft movements in 2021, representing a gain of more than 12% from 2020. The top 10 airports represent close to 8% of global traffic (5.3 million movements) and experienced a gain of 33.9% year-over-year, still representing a drop of 16.1% vis-à-vis 2019.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL, 708 thousand movements, +29.1%) leads, followed by Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD, 684 thousand, +27.1%) and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW, 652 thousand, +26.7%). All top 10 airports for aircraft movements are in the United States.