New data released by Airports Council International (ACI) World reveals the 20 busiest airports globally.

The annual World Airport Traffic Dataset confirms the global air traffic rankings for 2021, revealing the magnitude of the aviation industry’s slowdown during Covid – and the start of its recovery.

The World Airport Traffic Dataset is the industry’s most comprehensive airport statistics dataset featuring airport traffic for over 2,600 airports in more than 180 countries and territories.

Passenger traffic

Looking at passenger traffic, in 2021, the world’s airports accommodated 4.6 billion passengers, representing an increase of 28.3 per cent from 2020 or a drop of 49.5 per cent from 2019 results.

The top 20 airports, representing 19 per cent of global traffic (863 million passengers), experienced a gain of 42.9 per cent from 2020 or a drop of 31.9 per cent over their 2019 results (1.27 billion passengers in 2019).

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL, 75.7 million passengers, +76.4 per cent) is back on the top of the 2021 rankings followed by Dallas Forth Worth (DFW, 62.5 million passengers, +58.7 per cent) and Denver (DEN, 58.8 million passengers, +74.4 per cent).

Credit: ACI/ Total passengers enplaned and deplaned, passengers in transit counted once

“Following the release of preliminary data earlier in the year, we are pleased to share ACI’s complete annual World Airport Traffic Dataset,” said ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira. “It remains the authoritative source for global data on air transport demand across major city markets in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America-Caribbean, the Middle East, and North America. It is also the principal industry reference for air traffic rankings by type and region.

“2021 represents the beginning of the aviation industry’s recovery. While some of the perennial busiest airport leaders have re-joined upper ranks, other regions struggle to recover leading to new entrants in the top 20. With many countries taking steps towards the return of a certain normality, lifting almost all the health measures and travel restrictions as supported by science, we welcome the continuation of air travel demand’s recovery in 2022, despite certain headwinds.”

Aircraft movements

Looking at aircraft movements, 2021 figures are close to 74 million, representing a gain of 18.7 per cent from 2020 results or -28.2 per cent versus 2019.

The top 20 airports, representing 12 per cent of global traffic (8.7 million movements), witnessed a gain of 27.9 per cent from their 2020 results or a drop of 15.7 per cent versus their 2019 results (10.3 million in 2019).

ATL is at the top with 708 thousand movements (+29.1 per cent from 2020) but still below its 2019 result of 904 thousand movements (-21.7 per cent). ORD is still in second rank after leading ATL in 2019 and 2018.

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