ACI: Atlanta reclaims busiest airport title in 2021

Aviation Updates Philippines – Atlanta's Hartsfeld-Jackson International Airport reclaimed the title as the World Busiest Airport in 2021. 

 Image: Delta 757 takes off from Atlanta Hartsfeld-Jackson International AIrport (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

According to Airports Council International (ACI), Hartsfeld-Jackson Airport reclaimed the top spot of its recently released listing of the ten busiest airports worldwide for the year 2021. After dropping to the #2 spot in 2020, Atlanta's airport served 75.7 million passengers last year – a 76.4% increase compared to 2020 while also accounting for being 31.5% lower compared to 2019.

Following Atlanta, ACI's top ten busiest airports listing was dominated by airports in the US that took 8 of the 10 spots. Dallas-Fort Worth was the #2 busiest airport and served over 62.46 million passengers, which was then followed by Denver, Chicago-O'Hare, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Orlando, and Las Vegas.

Outside the US, two airports in China made the top ten listing. Guangzhou-Baiyun – the #1 busiest airport in 2020 – dropped to #8 while serving 40.26 million passengers. Guangzhou was followed by Chengdu which took the #9 spot with 40.11 passengers served in 2021.

Image Credit: Airports Council International (ACI) 

“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 ACI stated.

While the US airports dominated the top ten listing for passenger traffic in 2021, Dubai International Airport maintained its top spot as the busiest international air hub handling 29.11 million passengers. Dubai was followed by Istanbul, Amsterdam, Frankfurt-Main, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Doha, London-Heatrow, Antalya, Madrid, and Cancun.

Image Credit: Airports Council International (ACI) 

Hong Kong Reclaims Top Cargo Hub Spot

After slipping a spot in 2020, Hong Kong reclaimed the top spot as the busiest air cargo hub in the world in 2021.

While Hong Kong has seen a drastic drop in passenger traffic due to COVID-19 restrictions, the city's airport saw an increase in cargo handled. In 2021, Hong Kong handled over 5 million metric tonnes of cargo – a 4.5% and 12.5% increase compared to 2019 and 2020.

Hong Kong also was the top hub for international air cargo.

Following Hong Kong, Memphis slipped to the #2 spot followed by Shanghai-Pudong, Anchorage, Seoul-Incheon, Louisville, Taipei-Taoyuan, Los Angeles, Tokyo-Narita, and Doha.

Image Credit: Airports Council International (ACI) 


Recovery in 2020

According to ACI, airports served 4.5 billion passengers worldwide – a 25% increase compared to 2020. However, global passenger traffic is still 50% less compared to 2019.

Passenger traffic at the top ten busiest airports – representing 10% of global air traffic – saw a 51.8% increase compared to 2020 while also representing a drop of 29.1% compared to 2019.

“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,” Olivera added.