The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was once again named the busiest airport in the world with over 75 million total passengers in 2021, according to Airports Council International World.
Eight of the top 10 busiest airports in the world are located in the United States.
Taking off: Air travel rebounded last year after the COVID-19 pandemic grounded the industry in 2020, with Atlanta’s airport reporting a 76% increase in 2021. Atlanta reclaimed the top spot — knocking China’s Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport to No. 8.
Guangzhou overtook Atlanta as the busiest airport in 2020, but “saw the biggest drop in passenger volume from last year compared to other airports on the list, with an 8% decrease,” according to Business Insider.
Although Atlanta is only the seventh-largest metro area in the U.S., its airport is unique because it was built with room to grow, according to CNN. Unlike the New York area — which has three major airports in close proximity — Atlanta’s airspace is able to accommodate a high number of flights without interference.
The Orlando International Airport saw the biggest year-to-year increase, going from No. 27 in 2020 to No. 7 in 2021, boasting an 87% increase in passengers, according to USA Today.
Why it matters: ACI World’s director general, Luis Felipe de Oliveira, said in a statement the report shows “an encouraging trend of recovery,” CNN reports.
“Although we are cautious that recovery could face multiple headwinds, the momentum created by reopening plans by countries could lead to an uptick in travel in the second half of 2022,” he continued.
The industry still has some catching up to do, though. All 10 airports on the list are still below their pre-pandemic benchmarks. Atlanta is still 32% behind it’s 2019 numbers, and Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina — which is the closest to a full recovery — is still 13% below where it was in 2019.
How does SLC, Utah compare? Salt Lake City International Airport didn’t crack the ACI World’s top 10, and the report didn’t include data about Utah’s largest airport.
According to their internal statistics, Salt Lake served nearly 22.4 million passengers in 2021, ranking as the 21st busiest airport in North America and 70th busiest in the world. Salt Lake’s airport is still 17% below pre-pandemic numbers, after serving nearly 27 million passengers in 2019.
Here’s the full list of busiest airports in 2021:
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, 75.7 million passengers.
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, 62.5 million passengers.
- Denver International Airport, 58.8 million passengers.
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport, 54 million passengers.
- Los Angeles International Airport, 48 million passengers.
- Charlotte Douglas International Airport, 43.3 million passengers.
- Orlando International Airport, 40.4 million passengers.
- Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, China, 40.3 million passengers.
- Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, China, 40.1 million passengers.
- Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International Airport, 39.8 million passengers.