Although 2020 and 2021 were not normal for travel, the busiest airports in the world remained (at least relatively) the same with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport taking the top spot once again. According to Airports Council International (ACI) World, airports have been showing positive signs of recovery.

According to ACI, total global passengers in 2021 is estimated to be around 4.5 billion, up 25 percent from 2020 — but a drop by more than 50 percent from 2019.

The top 10 busiest airports represented nearly 10 percent of global traffic (463 million passengers), and saw a gain of 51.8 percent from 2020, but 29.1 lower than 2019.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) saw 75.7 million passengers in 2021, followed by Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) at 62.5 million passengers, and Denver International Airport (DEN) at 58.8 million passengers, +74.4%). The 2020 top airport — Guangzhou Bai Yun International Airport (CAN) — fell to the eight position, with 40.3 million passengers.

The top 10 airports in the world for 2021 were:

  • Atlanta, GA (ATL) – 75.7 million
  • Dallas/Fort Worth, TX (DFW) – 62.5 million
  • Denver, CO (DEN) – 58.8 million
  • Chicago, IL (ORD) – 54.0 million
  • Los Angeles, CA (LAX) – 48.0 million
  • Charlotte, NC (CLT) – 43.3 million
  • Orlando, FL (MCO) – 40.4 million
  • Guangzhou, China (CAN) 40.3 million
  • Chengdu, China (CTU) – 40.1 million
  • Las Vegas, NV (LAS) – 39.8 million

“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 travellers with more travel options and boost the overall recovery through aviation’s unique role in boosting trade, tourism, investment and creating jobs.”

Eight of the top 10 airports for passenger traffic in 2021 are in the United States, and two are in China, and “all top 10 airports have a significant share of domestic traffic, the traffic segment that has been leading global recovery,” according to ACI. A surprise was the Orlando International Airport (MCO), with 40.4 million passengers, which jumped from 27th in 2020 to seventh in 2021.