As the aviation industry recovers from the travel bans that limited traffic during the Covid-19 pandemic, with some airlines proving more able to handle the recovery than others, the world’s ten busiest airports highlight that the most popular destinations have gone largely unchanged. 

Though many airports have yet to return to the passenger numbers recorded before 2020, similar names continue to dominate the list with North America, showing its continued success through the five airports from the continent on the list. 

However, Europe’s presence in the top ten has been reduced to just three airports, with the rest located in Asia, showing the region’s continued growth in the industry. 

So, here is the full list of the world’s top ten busiest airports by annual passenger traffic, using their own reported figures and the Airport Council International’s historical data. 

CDG is named after the 18th President of France. Credit: EQRoy/Shutterstock

10. Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), France: 67.4 million

The first European airport in the top ten, Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) returned to the top ten in 2022 after losing a significant amount of traffic during the Covid-19 pandemic, dropping to just 22.3m passengers in 2020. 

While the airport has not yet recovered to its 2019 traffic of 76.2m passengers, it has seen a strong recovery in the last two years, jumping 119% between 2021 and 2022 and adding another 10m passengers in 2023 to 67,421,316 in total. 

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CDG, which opened in 1974, has three passenger terminals and four runways across its 32.38km2 site, which allows for 120 aircraft movements per hour. 

An aerial view of Chicago O'Hare International Airport
Chicago O’Hare International Airport was previously the busiest airport in the world between 1963 and 1998. Credit: EQRoy/Shutterstock

9. Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), US: 73.9 million 

The first of five US airports on the list, Chicago O’Hare International (ORD) has dropped slightly within the top ten after placing fourth in 2022, 2021, and 2019; and is no longer the dominant force it was in the late 1900s, when it ranked as the busiest in the world between 1963 and 1998. 

Like CDG, ORD is another airport that has yet to reach pre-pandemic traffic – down almost 13% compared to 2019 figures – and has also only seen a small rise in traffic between 2022 and 2023 of 8%, with 73,894,226 passengers passing through the airport. 

ORD’s site was selected for a new airport in 1945, after hosting a Douglas aircraft assembly plant, before opening to passenger traffic a decade later and utilising the existing four intersecting runways. 

The airport has just five terminals but with eight runways now in operation, it claims the title of having the most of any civilian airport in the world. 

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) seen from across the highway with an LAX sign in front
Los Angeles International Airport opened in 1928. Credit: Michael Rosebrock/Shutterstock

8. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), US: 75.1 million 

Los Angeles International Airport, known to many simply by its airport code LAX, is perhaps one of the most famous airports in the world and its stable place within the world’s busiest ten reflects its popularity. 

While LAX is another airport that has not returned to its pre-pandemic seat numbers yet as 2023 traffic is still more than 14.5% below 2019 figures, it has seen a notable recovery, with traffic growing almost 14% from 2022 to 75,050,851 passengers in 2023, and remains at eighth in the top ten. 

The airport opened in 1928, making it one of the oldest on the list, and the first hangar built is still in use to this day after being restored in 1990. Since then, the airport has opened nine passenger terminals with more than 150 gates and uses four runways. 

LAX could also potentially move up the list in years to come thanks to an ongoing $15bn improvement programme that will increase the number of gates at the airport and improve terminals and the airfield. 

A view of Istanbul airport at night
Istanbul Airport in Turkey features the largest airport terminal under one roof. Credit: Ancapital/Shutterstock

7. iGA Istanbul Airport (IST), Turkey: 76.2 million 

iGA Istanbul Airport (IST) has retained its position on the list from 2022, despite adding almost 12 million passengers to its traffic numbers, which reflects the global growth in the aviation sector in the last 12 months. 

Despite losing a significant proportion of its traffic during the pandemic, IST has seen a strong recovery since 2020, adding tens of millions of passengers each year thanks to its strategic position between Europe, Asia, and Africa, allowing IST to benefit from Turkey’s popularity as a tourist destination and as a hub for connecting flights. The airport recorded 76,236,980 arrivals and departures in 2023.

The airport opened in 2018 as a replacement for the at-capacity Atatürk Airport, which then transferred all passenger traffic to the new site the following year. 

IST features one terminal, the largest in the world under a single roof, catering for domestic and international flights and five runways, two of which are used as backups. 

A view of the Denver International Airport at night
Denver International Airport is the second largest in the world at more than 135km2. Credit: Arina P Habich/Shutterstock

6. Denver International Airport (DEN), US: 77.8 million

Though it only opened in 1995, Denver International Airport (DEN) has placed in the top 20 busiest airports in the world every year since the turn of the millennium, managing to weather the storm of the Covid-19 pandemic slightly better than some of its counterparts. 

While the airport’s traffic dropped more than 50% in 2020, it managed to stay in the top 10 with 33.7 million passengers and has already far surpassed its 2019 traffic of over 69 million passengers, with 77,837,917 people passing through its terminals in 2023. 

With a site spreading across 137.8km, DEN is both the largest airport site in North America and the second largest in the world, but surprisingly it has just one terminal featuring 169 gates. 

The airport, which is twice the size of Manhattan, also has five runways and boasts the longest commercial runway in North America, a feature needed due to its high altitude. 

An aerial view of Tokyo Haneda Airport
Tokyo Haneda Airport was built on a section of reclaimed land. Credit: Jeerapan Jankaew/Shutterstock

5. Tokyo Haneda International Airport (HND), Japan 78.7 million 

Tokyo Haneda International Airport (HND) has probably seen the biggest rise of any of the airports on this list since 2022, after jumping from sixteenth to fifth in just a year, thanks to an additional 28 million passengers, a rise of 55%, with 78,719,302 arrivals and departures in 2023. 

However, the airport is yet to reach pre-pandemic heights, when it recorded more than 87 million passengers in 2018 and has also not surpassed the 90 million passengers per year mark made possible after recent expansions. 

One of the oldest airports on the list, HND opened in 1931 with a small 300m runway and one terminal. Since then it has been expanded multiple times to feature four runways and three passenger terminals across a 15.2km site. 

An aerial view of London Heathrow Airport
London Heathrow Airport is planning to construct a third runway after years of legal issues. Credit: Philip Lange/Shutterstock

4. London Heathrow Airport (LHR), UK: 79.2 million

Despite being one of six airports serving London, Heathrow (LHR) has retained its dominance thanks to a significant number of international connections – the most in the world in 2023– and reclaimed the title of the busiest airport in Europe after being pushed out by Istanbul between 2020 and 2022. 

While LHR has not quite reached pre-pandemic levels of traffic, it has witnessed a strong recovery after passenger numbers dropped more than 75% between 2019 and 2021. The airport recorded 79,152,000 passengers in 2023 and is expected to surpass its busiest year ever in 2024 by recording more than 81 million passengers. 

The airport has served the British capital since 1946 and currently has four passenger terminals and two runways, with new terminals and a third runway planned for construction after years of legal issues that saw the UK Supreme Court lift a ban on a new runway in 2020. 

A view of Dallas Fort Worth International Airport with planes waiting at gates
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is the largest “carbon neutral” airport in the world. Credit: Frontpage/Shutterstock

3. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), US: 81.8 million

While it is still one of the busiest airports in the world, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) has dropped one place in the top ten from second to third after adding just more than eight million passengers between 2022 and 2023, recording a total of 81,764,044 arrivals and departures in 2023.

Though DFW lost nearly half of its traffic during the Covid-19 pandemic, the airport was able to rise in the top ten list during the period by retaining more of its passengers than other international hubs, largely thanks to its popularity as a connecting site for flights from across the Americas and the number of nonstop destinations available from its partner airlines. 

The first “carbon neutral” airport in North America, DFW is also the second largest airport by land in the US across 69.6km2 and features five terminals with 171 gates and an impressive seven runways. 

A line of Emirates airline aircraft on the tarmac outside of Dubai International Airport
Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 3 is one of the largest buildings in the world. Credit: Yatrik Sheth/Shutterstock

2. Dubai International Airport (DXB), UAE: 86.9 million 

As the busiest airport in Asia, Dubai International (DXB) also holds a number of records, including the biggest baggage handling system in the world, and features the world’s second-largest building by floor area with its Terminal 3. 

As part of its strong recovery from the pandemic, when traffic dropped 79%, DXB saw a 31.7% increase in traffic between 2022 and 2023 and has passed 2019’s 86.4 million passengers, but has not quite reached the record 89.1 million seen in 2018. The airport recorded 86,994,365 arrivals and departures in 2023.

Similar to Istanbul, DXB benefits from the UAE’s significant investment into tourism in the country and its position as a connecting hub for flights between Europe and North America and the Asia-Pacific region, with the majority of passengers passing through the airport as part of a connecting flight. 

DXB opened in 1960 as a small airport serving just a few destinations but has grown significantly as the UAE expanded and now includes three large terminals and two runways, both over 4,300m long. 

An aerial view of Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport
An aerial view of Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Credit: Thomas Barrat/Shutterstock

1. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL), US: 104.6 million 

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) is not only the busiest in the world by almost 10 million passengers per year, but it has also held the top spot in this list every year except one since 1998. 

Largely thanks to its position within a two-hour flight of 80% of the US population and as a connecting hub, ATL has managed to sustain its popularity and is currently the only airport in the 100 million club, an achievement it reached initially in 2015. The only other airport to match this is Beijing Capital International Airport, which exceeded 100 million passengers every year between 2018 and 2020.

Though ATL also suffered from pandemic restrictions, it managed to hold more traffic than some of its competitors, dropping by 61% in 2020, and saw a quick recovery with a 76.4% increase in 2021, though it has yet to reach the record 110 million passengers seen in 2019. The airport recorded 104,653,451 departures and arrivals in 2023.

Opened at an abandoned racetrack in 1926, ATL has been one of the busiest in the US throughout its history and rivalled the popular New York and Chicago airports by the end of the 1930s, it features two terminals and five runways across a 19km2 site.