World’s busiest airports in 2021: Atlanta reclaims title

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(CNN) — Move over, Canton. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia is once again the world’s busiest airport.

The US airport was knocked from its No. 1 spot to No. 2 in passenger volume in 2020 by China’s Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, breaking Atlanta Airport’s 22-year streak at No. 1.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was still the world’s busiest airport in 2019. But the pandemic is hitting global air traffic hard in 2020.

But in the 2021 rankings released Monday by trade association Airports Council International, ATL is back at the top, a sign of recovery from the precipitous drop in air traffic of 2020 when the pandemic took hold.

In 2021, the Atlanta airport saw 75.7 million passengers. That figure is 76% higher than in 2020, but still almost 32% below the pre-pandemic figures of 2019.

Guangzhou Airport fell to number 8 in 2021, with 40.3 million passengers. Another airport in China, Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, ranks ninth on the 2021 list, down from third in 2020.

US airports dominated the 2021 passenger traffic rankings, with eight of the top 10 in the United States.

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas was the second busiest in 2021, with about 62.5 million passengers, and Denver International Airport, Colorado, ranked third, with 58.8 million passengers.

Chicago’s O’Hare and Los Angeles International rounded out the top five.

The list shows “an encouraging trend of recovery,” Luis Felipe de Oliveira, CEO of ACI World, said in a statement.

“Although we are cautious that the recovery could face multiple obstacles, the momentum created by the reopening plans of the countries could generate an increase in travel in the second half of 2022,” de Oliveira said.

In 2021, there were an estimated 4.5 billion passengers worldwide, according to the ACI. That figure represents an increase of almost 25% from 2020, but a drop of more than 50% from 2019.

Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou, China, overtook Atlanta International Airport in 2020 as the world’s busiest. In 2021, Guangzhou Airport fell to number 8.

Tian Jianchuan/Xinhua/ZUMA Press

The United States and China switch places

Given the much faster recovery of domestic travel compared to international travel, airports that were well below the list of the world’s busiest airports before the pandemic have jumped into the top 10.

Airports in Charlotte, North Carolina (No. 6); Orlando, Fla. (No. 7); and Las Vegas (No. 10) are new to the top 10 this year. Vacation magnets Orlando and Las Vegas ranked 31st and 30th in passenger traffic before the pandemic in 2019.

The US’s strong performance in the top 10 is a change from 2020, when China’s airports held seven of the top 10 spots.

China’s dominance in 2020 was due to the early uptick in domestic travel in China. The country has not yet reopened to international visitors.

“If we look back at 2020, China was one of the first to emerge from the initial waves of the pandemic and, in fact, almost reached a full recovery by the end of 2020,” said Patrick Lucas, vice president of economics at ACI World.

But in 2021, domestic traffic in China dropped significantly under the new lockdowns, while the United States saw a big jump.

The United States has the world’s largest domestic travel market, followed by China.

Airports that routinely landed in the top 10 of the world’s busiest airports list, such as Dubai International, London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle, have been absent during the pandemic.

“Those markets that had very high proportions of international traffic were of course affected as a result of all these restrictions and quarantine requirements,” Lucas said.

The important role of international traffic is also part of the reason Beijing Capital International and Shanghai Pudong International airports have dropped out of the top 10. city’s new Daxing International Airport.

Dubai International Airport, which receives a large proportion of international traffic, dropped out of the top 10 busiest airports in 2021. However, it remained number 1 for international passengers in 2021.

Dubai International Airport, which receives a large proportion of international traffic, dropped out of the top 10 busiest airports in 2021. However, it remained number 1 for international passengers in 2021.

Elena/Adobe Stock

reverse restrictions

ACI advocates a “risk-based approach” to easing travel restrictions, following the data from Covid-19, Lucas said.

“Vaccines have really been the passport to travel, but as we can see now, many major markets are opening up and…many countries have realized that curbing travel or imposing travel restrictions doesn’t really do anything.” , said. saying.

“If anything, it creates even more harm. Which means it disrupts socio-economic gains from air travel and tourism, etc.”

As it stands, ACI expects total passenger traffic to recover to pre-pandemic levels in 2024.

However, strong domestic markets, including the United States, are expected to recover by 2023. And markets with a high proportion of international traffic are not expected to recover until 2025, Lucas said.

Globally, there are “different forces moving in opposite directions.”

There is very strong pent-up demand and the lifting of restrictions that have curbed travel in the face of rising travel costs and geopolitical concerns related to what is happening in Eastern Europe, Lucas said.

But overall, ACI is optimistic. “We have a feeling that consumers, passengers, will bite the bullet, so to speak, despite the rising cost of travel.”

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport says it is within a two-hour flight of 80% of the US population.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport says it is within a two-hour flight of 80% of the US population.

Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters

Top 10 busiest airports in the world by passenger traffic in 2021

1. Atlanta (ATL): 75.7 million passengers, 76% more than in 2020

2. Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW): 62.5 million passengers, 59% more than in 2020

3. Denver (DEN): 58.8 million passengers, 74% more than in 2020

4. Chicago O’Hare (ORD): 54 million passengers, 75% more than in 2020

5. Los Angeles (LAX): 48 million passengers, 67% more than in 2020

6. Charlotte (CLT): 43.3 million passengers, 59% more than in 2020

7. Orlando (CAM): 40.4 million passengers, 87% more than in 2020

8. Canton (CAN): 40.3 million passengers, 8% less than in 2020

9. Chengdu (CTU): 40.1 million passengers, 1.5% less than in 2020

10. Las Vegas (LAS): 39.8 million passengers, 79% more than in 2020

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