The world’s 10 busiest airports

L'aéroport de Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle

Excessive, luxurious, breathtaking: these are the world’s busiest airports.

Travelers often use airplanes to get around the world. There are almost 4,000 commercial airports worldwide, and they’re all different. Today, we present the latest ranking of the world’s ten busiest airports, in terms of international flights.

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1. Dubai International Airport

L'aéroport international de Dubaï

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Sorbis

Dubai Airport, in the United Arab Emirates, is the world’s busiest airport. It was also voted one of the best in the world for its high level of service: who should be surprised? It acts as a crossroads between Asia, Europe and Africa. Many air routes stop here.

Its three terminals are capable of handling a hundred million passengers a year. Luxury boutiques, a Zen garden, bars and restaurants, cutting-edge services… everything is designed to optimize the travel experience and make business or leisure travel unforgettable.

2. London Heathrow Airport

L'aéroport de Londres Heathrow

Photo credit: Shutterstock – pio3

Welcome to London… or rather, some twenty kilometers from downtown London. Such a distance was necessary to build this monumental complex with two runways and five passenger terminals. London Heathrow airport is served by over 90 different airlines.

It has been the preferred point of departure to North America for decades. It leads to over 170 destinations in Europe, Africa, Asia, America, Oceania… These varied landing points make it the world’s second busiest airport for international flights.

3. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

L’aéroport d'Amsterdam-Schiphol

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Aerovista Luchtfotografie

Europe certainly ranks highly in this ranking of the world’s busiest airports. Among them is a very large airport in the heart of a very small country: Schiphol airport, nearAmsterdam. A world air traffic hub with 350 destinations, it is home to KLM and Transavia. Today, these Dutch airlines are veritable multinationals.

Schiphol airport’s remarkable building is a high-tech architectural masterpiece with a large number of retail outlets. What’s more, it’s at the heart of a city where 500 companies employ 65,000 people day and night.

4. Istanbul airport

L'aéroport d'Istanbul

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Markus Mainka

All new, all beautiful:Istanbul airport, in operation since 2018, expects to exceed 200 million annual passengers when its development is completed. It will then be the world’s largest, with six runways. A true connection between Europe and Asia, it currently serves over 350 destinations. Located on the European side of the city, on the shores of the Black Sea, it is some forty kilometers from the city center.

This pharaonic airport project has resulted in the world’s largest terminal, with a surface area of… 76 million m². The bold architecture is inspired by traditional Turkish buildings, creating a unique visual experience.

5. Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport

L'aéroport de Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle

Photo credit: Shutterstock – EQRoy

Among the world’s busiest airports, Paris-Charles de Gaulle ranks fifth, with 120 countries served. This colossus spans the departments of Val-d’Oise, Seine-Saint-Denis and Seine-et-Marne. The hub of the national airline Air France, it handles most of the long-haul flights departing from Paris. Nine terminals, three major terminals, four runways, almost 100,000 direct jobs: the figures are mind-boggling.

A national pride, Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle airport, opened in 1974, is one of the world’s major airports. The hub’s capacity is set to reach 120 million annual passengers by 2024. That’s just what we need for the Olympics!

6. Frankfurt am Main airport

L'aéroport de Francfort-sur-le-Main

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Markus Mainka

In sixth place in this ranking of the world’s busiest airports is Frankfurt Airport. Located some ten kilometers south-west of the city center, it has four runways, three passenger terminals (including the luxurious Lufthansa terminal) and almost 150 departure gates.

Everything here is designed to reduce waiting times and increase the satisfaction of a heterogeneous international clientele. Relaxation lounges, business centers, full bathrooms, shops, pharmacies, children’s play areas, prayer rooms… The airport is Europe’s leading airport in terms of cargo volume.

7. Doha Hamad International Airport

L'aéroport international Hamad de Doha

Photo credit: Shutterstock – EQRoy

Doha Hamad International Airport is Qatar’s only airport. In 2014, it replaced the former Doha International Airport. This gigantic airport base is the operational headquarters of Qatar Airways. Among the world’s busiest airports, this one stands out for its high level of luxury. In fact, it bears the name of the former Emir of Qatar.

The airport is famous for its giant bronze teddy bear statue, « Lamp Bear », created by Swiss artist Urs Fischer. It has two parallel runways 2 kilometers apart. The longer of the two measures 4,850 metres and is 60 metres wide. It is the longest runway in Western Asia.

8. Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport

L'aéroport Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Marques

Inaugurated as long ago as 1931, Madrid-Barajas airport is located in the northeast of the Spanish capital. Metro line 8 runs directly from the second floor of Terminal 2. Spain’s leading airport acts as a link between the European continent and South America.

For obvious historical reasons, the country maintains privileged relations with its former Latin American colonies. Travellers from Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Chile and Brazil benefit from four passenger terminals and four runways. Served by almost 100 different airlines, it owes its name to the first elected head of government of the Spanish democracy.

9. New York – John F. Kennedy International Airport

L'aéroport international de New York - John-F.-Kennedy

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Pit Stock

The Big Apple, a city of superlatives, boasts no less than three different airports. Named in tribute to the former American president, this is one of the busiest airports in the world. It was built in southern Queens, 25 kilometers from Time Square.

Almost all international flights in the New York region pass through this 20 km² area. With four runways, some 100 airlines serve it daily. For the record, it was the subject of the film « The Terminal », starring the brilliant Tom Hanks.

10. Miami International Airport

L'aéroport international de Miami

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Nadezda Murmakova

This ranking of the world’s busiest airports puts Miami in tenth place. The Floridian metropolis is the primary air gateway between the United States and Latin America. Its geographical location also makes it one of Europe’s preferred air hubs. More than 125,000 people a day share its 130 gates covering 700,000 m².

Aesthetically very successful, it is home to numerous art galleries and exciting cultural spaces. Visitors enjoy strolling through the immense halls of « MIA » to pass the time while waiting for take-off. They’ll also recognize the distinctive décor featured in a number of films and TV series.

Overall ranking (international flights + domestic flights)

Aéroport d'Atlanta

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Rob Wilson

The ranking of the world’s busiest airports changes dramatically when domestic flights are taken into account. Why is this? Because some of the countries in this second ranking, such as China,India and the USA, are home to several hundred million people. Domestic flights therefore account for a significant proportion of their air traffic, and therefore of global air traffic.

It will also have escaped no one’s notice that the Covid-19 pandemic has turned the tables on international travel. In addition to travel restrictions, it seemed simpler to take vacations in one’s own country… rather than risk being stranded thousands of kilometers away. Quite simply.

  • 1. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Atlanta, USA;
  • 2. Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates;
  • 3. Tokyo-Haneda International Airport, Japan;
  • 4. Canton-Baiyun International Airport, China;
  • 5. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, USA;
  • 6. Los Angeles International Airport, USA;
  • 7. Denver International Airport, USA;
  • 8. Chicago O’Hare International Airport, USA;
  • 9. Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, India;
  • 10. Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Jakarta, Indonesia.