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What is the busiest airport in the world, and how is this measured?

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    $\begingroup$ For what operations and for what period of time? The "busiest" changes daily, for example Wittman Regional becomes the busiest airport for about a week in July. O'Hare is historically the busiest, and Heathrow is often also cited as such. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Feb 1 '17 at 5:22
  • $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer Well I left it kind of open ended so that multiple types of answers could be documented here. An answer could talk about the airport that on average has the most flights in and out per day or it could talk about Oshkosh. $\endgroup$ – Aaron Raimist Feb 1 '17 at 5:26
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    $\begingroup$ In terms of passengers ? Flights ? Cargo volume/wheight ? Anyway, you should at least try to use google. It's really not hard to find... $\endgroup$ – Antzi Feb 1 '17 at 5:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Antzi Let's say number of flights in and out. To the rest of your comment, yeah I understand. I'm just new here and was trying to think of a quick question that might have some interesting discussions related to it (and to be honest, to get a little. It if Reputation so I can upvote some questions and answers and stuff. I understand the requirement to have reputation to do those things but for people who just want to participate it kinda forces them to come up with a quick question) $\endgroup$ – Aaron Raimist Feb 1 '17 at 6:12
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    $\begingroup$ I wouldn't delete it. I would make it concrete by editing. I don't think we have a duplicate for this question so it's a good one and with editing to make it specific, I can see no reason why it won't be a good question welcomed by the community. $\endgroup$ – Simon Feb 1 '17 at 7:07
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Note: Since this answer was first written, updated statistics have been published. The original answer was written against 2015 figures, with the update from 2017 figures.


There is no one simple measure of "busiest" when it comes to airports, there are usually (at least) three.

  1. Busiest by passenger traffic - defined as total passengers emplaned and deplaned, with transit passengers counted once
  2. Busiest by cargo traffic - loaded and unloaded freight and mail measured in metric tonnes
  3. Busiest by traffic movements - total number of landings and takeoffs of all aircraft

The most recent statistics produced by Airports Council International are from 2017.

By passenger traffic the top 3 are

  • 2015

    1. Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, USA
    2. Beijing Capital International Airport, China
    3. Dubai International Airport, UAE
  • 2017

    1. Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, USA
    2. Beijing Capital International Airport, China
    3. Dubai International Airport, UAE

By cargo traffic

  • 2015

    1. Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong
    2. Memphis International Airport, USA
    3. Shanghai Pudong International Airport, China
  • 2017

    1. Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong
    2. Memphis International Airport, USA
    3. Shanghai Pudong International Airport, China

By traffic movements

  • 2015

    1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, USA
    2. O'Hare International Airport, USA
    3. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, USA
  • 2017

    1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, USA
    2. O'Hare International Airport, USA
    3. Los Angeles International Airport, USA

(Aside: Wow, those Americans like their traffic movements - 8 of the top 10 are USA! | 2017 update: 7/10)


There are a few non-standard claims too. They are interesting, if not winners.

  • Memphis International is the Home of FedEx, and as such was the highest freight airport for a number of years.

  • Gatwick Airport is the busiest single-runway airport (There are actually two runways, but only one is ever in use)

  • Wittman Airport hosts an aviation event which temporarily raises it to one of the busiest airport in the world for that short period.

  • The airports of London (Heathrow, Gatwick, City, Luton, Stanstead & Southend) host the most passengers annually for a single city's airports combined.

    (Don't get me started on Southend being a "London" airport - it's at least 20 miles from what could sensibly be called London)


References:

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  • $\begingroup$ technically Oxford is a London airport too - that's 60 odd miles out of the city!! $\endgroup$ – Minnie Feb 1 '17 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Minnie oh gosh you're right! I even landed there a few weeks ago and never realised it was actually "London Oxford Airport". What's next? "London Prestwick" :) $\endgroup$ – Jamiec Feb 1 '17 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ Ironically, it's not mentioned in Airports of London so not counted in those figures. Aside: I missed City! $\endgroup$ – Jamiec Feb 1 '17 at 15:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Minnie That's not only the case in London: in Germany we have Frankfurt (FRA) but the airport mainly used by low-cost carriers (like Ryanair) is officially called “Frankfurt-Hahn” (HHN) – albeit it's 110 km (70 miles) away and not even located in the same federal state! As a native Frankfurter (no, not the sausage) this always bugs me a bit. ;-) $\endgroup$ – PerlDuck Feb 1 '17 at 19:59
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    $\begingroup$ @PerlDuck yes but in London we have; Luton (Bedfordshire), Stanstead (Essex), Gatwick (West Sussex) and Southend (Essex). Only Heathrow (barely) and City (very much so) are actually in London. $\endgroup$ – Jamiec Feb 1 '17 at 20:14
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Atlanta airport (KATL) in the USA is the busiest airport in the world measured by passenger traffic.

Gatwick airport (EGKK) in England is the busiest single runway airport in the world, meaning that their runway is probably the busiest runway you will find anywhere.

Source: Wikipedia.

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This CNN article just reported on 2017's busiest airports.

https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/worlds-busiest-airports-2017/index.html

Worldwide passenger traffic increased 7.5% to 8.3 billion in 2017, one of the strongest growth rates on record. International passenger numbers were up 8.6% globally. Worldwide cargo traffic rose 7.7%. The world's largest air cargo hub remains Hong Kong. The US city of Memphis, Tennessee, took the second spot, followed by Shanghai, China. Worldwide aircraft movements increased 3% in 2017 to 95.8 million

The world's busiest airports 2017

  1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (Georgia) -- 104 million passengers

  2. Beijing Capital International Airport (China) -- 96 million

  3. Dubai International Airport (United Arab Emirates) -- 88 million

  4. Tokyo Haneda International Airport (Japan) -- 85 million

  5. Los Angeles International Airport (California) -- 84.6 million

  6. Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (Illinois) -- 80 million
  7. London Heathrow Airport (United Kingdom) -- 78 million
  8. Hong Kong International Airport (China) -- 73 million
  9. Shanghai Pudong International Airport (China) -- 70 million
  10. Aéroport de Paris-Charles de Gaulle (France) -- 69 million
  11. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (Netherlands) -- 68.5 million
  12. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (Texas) -- 67 million
  13. Guangzhou Bai Yun International Airport (China) -- 66 million
  14. Frankfurt Am Main Airport (Germany) -- 64.5 million
  15. Atatürk International Airport (Turkey) -- 64 million
  16. Indira Gandhi International Airport (India) -- 63.5 million
  17. Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (Indonesia) -- 63 million
  18. Singapore Changi Airport (Singapore) -- 62.22 million
  19. Incheon International Airport (South Korea) -- 62.16 million
  20. Denver International Airport (Colorado) -- 61 million
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  • $\begingroup$ Note this can only be based on preliminary figures - aci.aero/news/2018/04/09/… The final report for 2017 will probably be released in the next few weeks based on the timescale of the 2015 figures (released September 2016) $\endgroup$ – Jamiec Sep 21 '18 at 14:40
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    $\begingroup$ That's a lot of people going somewhere else! $\endgroup$ – CrossRoads Sep 21 '18 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ Why the downvote? $\endgroup$ – CrossRoads Sep 24 '18 at 14:47

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