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Five of the world’s busiest airports for passengers in 2022 were in the United States, according to preliminary global air traffic figures.
Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport was still the world’s busiest airport for passenger volume in 2022, holding the top spot it reclaimed in 2021 after being knocked off stride by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Airports Council International, a trade association representing nearly 2,000 airports, released the rankings on Wednesday.
Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver and Chicago O’Hare took the second, third and fourth slots, respectively. Los Angeles was No. 6 among the busiest airports in 2022.
The strong US showing is thanks to a healthy rebound in the domestic market. All of the US airports in the top 10 have significant domestic passenger shares – between 75% and 95% domestic traffic, according to ACI.
In 2021, eight out of the top 10 busiest airports were in the United States.
More broadly, domestic markets are recovering faster than international markets.
“In the international markets, of course we are suffering a little bit more in terms of the recovery,” said Luis Felipe de Oliveira, director general of ACI World, in an interview with CNN Travel.
However, Dubai International (No. 5), London Heathrow (No. 8) and Paris Charles de Gaulle (No. 10) returned to the top 10 in 2022 after two pandemic years of being knocked off their pre-pandemic top 10 perches.
The London hub recorded the largest year-over-year traffic jump of the top 10, with a nearly 218% increase in passenger volume from 2021, thanks to the lifting of restrictions in March 2022.
And Dubai was the No. 1 airport in 2022 for international passengers, followed by London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol.
New to the overall top 10 for passengers in 2022 were Istanbul Airport at No. 7 and Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi at No. 9.
For the first time in many years, no airports in China made it into the top 10 busiest list. After the United States, China is the world’s second-largest domestic travel market.
Global traffic in 2022 reached nearly 7 billion passengers, 73.8% of 2019 levels, according to ACI, with domestic travel at 80% of 2019 levels and international traffic at 60%.
Air travel should be ‘much better’ in 2023
Last year also brought big air travel disruptions in some regions related to surges in demand that outpaced ramp-ups in staffing and capacity, which had been slashed early in the pandemic.
This year should be “much better,” de Oliveira said, noting that air travel is an “ecosystem.”
“We don’t have an airline without an airport. We don’t have an airport without an airline, but you don’t have the industry without the customer, the passenger.
“That’s why for us it’s very important to maintain and work together with the whole ecosystem to provide a good service for our passengers. And in that way, we are much more prepared than last year to cope with the demand,” he said.
One of the biggest lessons for the industry from the pandemic? A need for global collaboration.
“We cannot take decisions that are not based in facts, that are not based in science,” de Oliveira said, noting a need for coordinated rules “rather than each country taking a decision based on their own conclusions about the measures they need to take. The coordination for us is more important than what kind of rules that you apply.”
ACI expects global passenger traffic to reach 92% of 2019 levels in 2023. A full recovery to 2019 levels isn’t expected until 2024.
World’s top 10 busiest airports for passenger traffic in 2022
1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, Georgia (ATL): 93.7 million passengers; up 23.8% from 2021
2. Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas (DFW): 73.4 million passengers; up 17.5% from 2021
3. Denver, Colorado (DEN): 69.3 million passengers; up 17.8% from 2021
4. Chicago O’Hare, Illinois (ORD): 68.3 million passengers; up 26.5% from 2021
5. Dubai, United Arab Emirates (DXB): 66.1 million passengers; up 127% from 2021
6. Los Angeles, California (LAX): 65.9 million passengers; up 37.3% from 2021
7. Istanbul, Turkey (IST): 64.3 million passengers; up 73.8% from 2021
8. London Heathrow, United Kingdom (LHR): 61.6 million passengers; up 217.7% from 2021
9. Delhi, India (DEL): 59.5 million passengers; up 60.2% from 2021
10. Paris Charles de Gaulle, France (CDG): 57.5 million passengers; up 119.4% from 2021