Busiest Airports in The World (and How to Avoid Them)

By Ricky Gomulka

Updated August 29, 2022

Fact Checked By Kevin Bales

The world has gone through a drastic change after COVID-19 and the same is the case with airports. The airports which used to be the busiest ones before the pandemic are not on the list anymore. According to the Airport Council International, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport remained the world’s busiest airport for almost 20 years, from 1998 to 2019. But 2020 shook the world and airports as well. The data collected by ACI after 2020, presented unexpected changes, and the only two airports from pre-COVID were included in the top 10 list of busiest airports in the recent list.   Have you ever wondered about the busiest airports in the world? What according to you the word “busiest” means? Let’s dig into this. We usually talk about the number of passengers when we are referring to the busiest airports. But according to Airport Council International (ACI), the busiest airport is the one that deals with the maximum number of passengers, landings, takeoffs, and cargo as well. Here to keep it simple, we will talk about the number of passengers only.  New to JetLevel Aviation? Signup for our daily newsletter.    Here is the list of the world’s busiest airports

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted airport traffic, reshuffling the list of busiest airports worldwide as travel restrictions and recovery rates varied globally.

2020 position 2019 position Airport Passenger numbers
1 11 GUANGZHOU, CN (GZZZ) 43,767,558
2 1 ATLANTA GA, US (KATL) 42,91,685
3 24 CHENGDU, CN (ZUUU) 40,741,509
4 10 DALLAS/FORT WORTH, US (KDFW) 39,364,990
5 26 SHENZHEN, CN (ZGSZ) 37,916,054
6 48 CHONGQING, CN (ZUCK) 34,937,789
7 2 BEIJING, CN (ZBAA) 34,513,827
8 16 DENVER CO, US (KDEN) 33,741,129

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport: The Most Busiest Airport in the World

Guangzhou topped the list of the world’s busiest airports after the Covid-19 pandemic. Previously the airport was not even top 10, this was a radical change in the world of air travel. But this happened due to a few reasons: The COVID-19 pandemic began in China which compelled the masses to move from China to other countries of the world. Within the country, travel restrictions were lifted off earlier than international travel.  China recovered from the pandemic earlier than the rest of the world.  

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport: Second in the list of Busiest Airports

Arrivals level Maynard H. Jackson. Jr International Terminal

Hartsfield-Jackson Airport remained the number one busiest airport for almost two decades but the streak was broken down by the COVID-19 pandemic and it moved to second on the list. The traffic at the airport decreased to 63% by the year 2020 which was more than expected. The airport witnessed 42,918,685 passengers declining from 110 million passengers a year before. The reason behind this massive change can be Strict travel restrictions in the USA in the post-pandemic years. Restricted air travel in the USA due to a large number of COVID-19 cases. Delayed lifting of pandemic restrictions in the USA than the rest of the world.   

Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport: Third Busiest Airport

Chengdu Shuangliu Airport showed a massive turnaround in the number of passengers in the post-pandemic era. In the year 2019, it was standing at number 24 on the list of the world’s busiest airports. But it moved to 3rd in 2020 which was beyond AIC expectations. These drastic changes were due to several causes such as China recovering earlier from the pandemic than other countries. China was one of the few countries to diminish travel restrictions which enhanced the movement of the masses. The COVID pandemic started in China which caused massive expulsion of people from the country leading to more airport use than normal.

Post-pandemic, the world’s busiest airports shifted due to travel restrictions and early recoveries in certain regions. Notably, airports like Guangzhou Baiyun and Chengdu Shuangliu in China rose in ranks.

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport: Grapevine, Texas

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport was the fourth busiest airport in the world and second in the USA. in the pre-pandemic era, the airport was at the 10th spot on the list of the busiest airports. But the airport moved to fourth place in the post-pandemic time. There could be several reasons for this dramatic change in the air traffic at Dallas International Airport.  It is the second busiest airport in Texas. Because Texas is one of the most significant economic states in the USA.  Air traffic increased in the city in the post-pandemic era as the world recovered from COVID-19.  Texas holds a special place from a tourism point of view, this can also be attributed to the reason why this airport moved to the top 10 after the pandemic.  

Shenzhen Baoan International Airport: Shenzhen, China

The fifth busiest airport in the world. The airport moved from the 26th to the 5th spot which is a shocking move for the airport authorities. The airports in China were supposed to be busier than usual because of the pandemic. The Shenzhen Baoan International Airport is the highly significant one from an industrial and educational point of view. That is why the airport faced more than usual traffic of about 38 million people in the post-pandemic year.   

Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport: Chongqing, China

Another Chinese airport witnessed a significant increase in ranking while other global hubs saw fewer passengers due to the virus. Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport (CKG) ranked 48th in overall passenger traffic in 2019 and sixth in 2020. It is going to become the largest airport in western China. One of the reasons for the sky-high rise in airport traffic could be this The airport is the 128 hours transit visa airport for foreign travelers allowing more foreign tourists than any other airport in the region.  

Beijing Capital International Airport: Beijing, China

Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) was the second busiest airport in 2019, however, traffic volumes dropped by 65.5% in 2020, dropping it to seventh place for the year. Beijing being the main city of China faced more travel restrictions which costed the airport to move from second to seventh spot on the list. COVID-19 also enhanced the focus on private travel which further dispersed the traffic at airports.  

Denver International Airport: Denver, Colorado

Denver International Airport (DEN) was one of the busiest airports in the United States in 2020. But it might be more than just a transit center; there are some insane conspiracy tales about the airport including the Illuminati, subterranean bunkers, and other things. The airport has jumped from the 16th to the 8th position within a year which is an amazing change for the airport authorities.   

How to Avoid these Busiest Airports (Tips and Tricks)

Will your journey brings you to, from, or via one of these busiest airports? Then follow our advice for a pleasant visit. Private jets are becoming popular in the current era because they are the best way to avoid airport fuss.  If you are sick of the long queues, the luggage hustle, the congested flights. You must go for private jets to avoid these busiest airports. When you hire a private jet, you are stress-free about the timing margin or the long security checks.  You have to reach the airport on time and get on board your private aircraft without waiting for hours.  you can’t access the private jet and you have to travel through commercial airlines, we are here to provide you with quality tips to avoid the busiest airport hustle. By utilizing this golden advice you can ditch overcrowded airports. Allow extra time to check in your luggage, go through security, and locate your departure gate. Queues and distances between baggage claim and gates are always saturated with passengers at the busiest airports! Book connecting flights with tight arrival and departure times with caution. If you need to go to another terminal, you may have to walk or use a crowded shuttle bus. Prepare yourself to face the massive crowd because there is a high chance you may get panic if you are facing such crowds for the first time in your life.

To avoid crowded airports, travelers are advised to consider private jet travel for a hassle-free experience or to allocate extra time for check-ins and navigate through busier conditions.


Bottom Line

This blog highlights the world’s busiest airports and how COVID-19 has influenced the order of airport traffic within a year. This also presents tips to avoid the mess at these congested airports and travel without unwanted anxiety attacks! Request a Quote for a Private Flight