Corona turned the airport industry upside down and reshuffled the list of the world’s biggest airports. We analyzed the latest data and present the top 20 of the world’s biggest airports in 2021!

world's biggest airports 2020

The World’s Biggest Airports in 2020

After completing our latest list of the world’s biggest airlines, we were curious to take a look at their counterparts. Similar to airlines, Corona hit the airport business heavily. Subsequently, we were ready to discover a reshuffled list of the world’s top 20 airports. And one thing I can already ensure: We were right. The list of biggest airports in 2020 looks entirely different from the previous year. We have new number one, and many airports entered the top 20 for the first time.

The World’s Biggest Airports — How we Ranked?

Whenever presenting a top 20 list, the first question that comes to someone’s mind is: “How did they rank?” Well, in terms of airports, we took a straightforward approach. We simply looked at 2020’s passenger figures. But, again, ICAO, as an international organization, provides a profound data source.

To provide some more context, we’ve added the change of an airport’s rank compared to 2019 and the change in terms of passengers.

Enjoy the ranking!

Top 20 — The World’s Biggest Airports

#20 — Istanbul Airport (IST)

Ranking
We kick off the list of the world’s biggest airports with a winner. Brand-new Istanbul Airport climbed eight positions and ranks 20th. However, when looking at passenger figures, Istanbul might not feel like a winner: Compared to 2019, the number of passengers fell sharply by 55%. Nevertheless, the airport was able to serve more than 23 million passengers.

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #20 Istanbul Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #20 Istanbul Airport

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Istanbul Airport is the main international airport of Istanbul. The airport started its operations in 2018. Subsequently, all commercial flights were from Istanbul Atatürk Airport to Istanbul Airport in 2019. The airport has five runways and can handle 200 million passengers a year. In addition, Istanbul Airport serves as the hub for Turkish Airlines, Turkish Cargo, and Onurair.

Istanbul Airport — Source Arne Müseler – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

#19 — Dubai International Airport (DXB)

Ranking
There are only a few airports in the world that suffered, like Dubai Airport in 2020. With 70% fewer passengers than in 2019, Dubai Airport lost 15 positions and rank 19th. Overall, Dubai Airports handled 25.9 million passengers in 2020. It was in 2005 when Dubai Airport handled a similar amount of passengers for the last time.

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #19 Dubai International Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #19 Dubai International Airport

Base data
Dubai is the international hub of the United Arab Emirates. Before Corona, Dubai was the world’S busiest airport in terms of international traffic and the busiest airport for Airbus A380 and Boeing B777 movements. The airport has two runways and serves as a hub for Emirates and flydubai. The airport’s third terminal is the second largest building globally by floor space and the largest airport terminal in the world. Pre-COVID, the airport employs more than 90,000 people.

Dubai Airport

#18 — Charlotte International Airport (CLT)

Ranking
Charlotte International Airport is another winner when it comes to the biggest airport ranking. With 27.2 million passengers in 2020, Charlotte climbs 16 positions and ranks 18th. However, compared to 2019, the airport faced a reduction of 46% in terms of passengers.

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #18 Charlotte International Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #18 Charlotte International Airport

Base data
Charlotte International Airport is a U.S. airport located in Charlotte, North Carolina. The airport four runways and one passenger terminal. In pre-COVID time the airport was the world’s fifth-busiest airport in terms of aircraft movements. The 1935-built airport serves as a hub for American Airlines.

Charlotte International Airport

#17 — Hangzhou Airport (HGH)

Ranking
At rank 17th of the world’s biggest airports, we have the first Chinese airport: Hangzhou. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find exact passenger figures for 2019. But, similar to many other Chinese airports, Hangzhou “only” lost a third of its pre-Covid passenger volume and handled 28.2 million passengers in 2020.

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #18 Hangzhou Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #18 Hangzhou Airport

Base data
Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport is a major Chinese airport located on China’s east coast. The construction of the first part of the airport started in 1997 and was completed in late 2000. The airport has two runways and serves as a hub for Loong Air and Xiamen Airlines. Furthermore, Air China, China Southern, China Eastern, and Hainan Airlines operate several flights to the airport.

File:杭州 Hangzhou - 蕭山國際機場 (37554081984).jpg
Hangzhou Airport

#16 — Delhi Indira Gandhi Airport (DEL)

Ranking
India’s Indira Gandhi Airport in Delhi is one of the rare airports that almost defended its position. Although losing almost 60% of its traffic, Delhi Aiport only lost one position and ranked 16h among the world’s biggest airports. Overall, the airport handled 28.5 million passengers in 2020.

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #16 Delhi Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #16 Delhi Airport

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Delhi airport serves as one of India’s most important travel hubs. The airport has three runways, with a fourth currently being built. Previous to the Corona pandemic, Delhi Airport was the world’s busiest airport in terms of A320 traffic. Moreover, the airport is India’s busiest airport when it comes to cargo operations. Delhi Airport serves as a hub for Air India, GoAir, IndiGo, and some smaller and regional Indian airlines.

Delhi Airport

Top 15 — The World’s Biggest Airports

#15 — Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Ranking
Los Angeles airport is one of the bigger losers when it comes to this airport ranking. Based on a passenger decline of almost 68%, Los Angeles Airport lost twelve positions and found itself as the 15th biggest airport in the world. Overall, 28.8 million passengers traveled through LAX in 2020.

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #15 Los Angeles International Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #15 Los Angeles International Airport

Base data
Los Angeles Airport is one of the biggest airports in the United States. The airport handled almost 90 million passengers in pre-COVID time. With four runways, Los Angeles Airport serves as a hub for Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United.

Los Angeles Airport

#14 — Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG)

Ranking
Shanghai Pudong International Airport is one of the rare bigger Asian airports that declined. Based on a passenger reduction of 60%, the airport ranks 14th — six places behind its 2019 rank. Overall, Shanghai Pudong handled 30.5 million passengers in 2020.

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #14 Shanghai International Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #14 Shanghai International Airport

Base data
Shanghai Pudong International Airport is one of Shanghai’s two international airports. Different from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, Pudong serves mainly international routes. That’s also the reason why the airport saw a massive passenger decline in 2020. Before the Corona pandemic, Pudong Airport was the world’s third-busiest airport in terms of cargo operations and China’s third busiest airport in terms of passengers. Shanghai Pudong serves as a hub for many airlines, e. g. Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, DHL Aviation, Juneyao Airlines, or Shanghai Airlines.

Shanghai Pudong Airport

#13 — Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

Ranking
Like many other U.S. airports, Chicago O’Hare International Airport saw a decline of some 60% in passenger figures in 2020. Operating almost 31 million passengers, the airport ranks 13th — a decline of seven positions.

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #13 Chicago O'Hare International Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #13 Chicago O’Hare International Airport

Base data
Chicago O’Hare is one of the U.S.’s biggest and most important airports. In terms of aircraft movements, the airport was the world’s busiest airport in 2019. Moreover, between 1963 and 1998, Chicago O’Hare was the world’s biggest airport in terms of passengers. The airport has eight runways and serves as a hub for American Airlines and United Airlines.

Chicago Airport

#12 — Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND)

Ranking
Tokyo is another Asian airport that lost place in 2020. With a decline of almost 64% in passenger numbers, the airport ranks twelve — seven places lower than 2019. Overall, almost 31 million passengers traveled through Tokyo Haneda.

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #12 Tokyo Haneda Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #12 Tokyo Haneda Airport

Base data
Tokyo International Airport, known as Haneda Airport, is one of Tokyo’s two main airports. The airport has the IATA code HND. The airport commenced operations in 1931 and handled almost 90 million passengers in 2018. Accordingly, it is one of the world’s best airports and the world’s 4th busiest airport. In addition, the airport is considered the world’s cleanest domestic airport. The airport serves as a hub for Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airlines, Skymark Airlines, Air Do, and Solaseed Air.

Tokyo Haneda Airport

#11 — Xi’an International Airport (XIY)

Ranking
At #11, we have another Asian airport. And actually one of the big winners in terms of the biggest airport rankings. China’s Xi’an International Airport climbs 29 positions and ranks eleventh. With a relatively low decline in passenger numbers (~34%), Xi’an Airport handled 31.1 million passengers.

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #11 Xi'an International Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #11 Xi’an International Airport

Base data
Xi’an International Airport is located in the Eastern part of China. Originally built in the 1990s, the airport has three terminals, two runways and serves as a hub for airlines such as Air Chang’an, Joy Air, Hainan Airlines, or Sichuan Airlines.

File:XiAn International Airport.JPG
Xi’an Airport, Source Wikimedia

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Top 10 — The World’s Biggest Airports

#10 — Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA)

Ranking
With Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, both Shanghai airports made it to the top 20 of the world’s biggest airports. With its focus on domestic and international traffic, Hongqiao’s had to manage a passenger decline of “only” 31.7%. Based on the moderate passenger reduction, the airport skyrockets 36 positions and ranks in the top 10 of the world’s biggest airports for the first time.

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #10 Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #10 Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport

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Hongqiao Airport mainly serves domestic and regional flights, although the airport also serves international flights. Hongqiao airport has two runways and was certified with a Skytrax 5-star rating. Moreover, the airport serves as a hub for China Eastern Airlines, Juneyao Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, and Spring Airlines.

Shanghai Hongqiao Airport

#9 — Kunming International Airport (KMG)

Ranking
Kunming International Airport is the next Chinese airport that benefited from a moderate decline in passenger numbers. Similar to Hongqiao, Kunming witnessed a ~32% reduction in passenger figures. Nevertheless, with almost 33 million passengers, Kunming climbed 28 positions and ranked 9th in the list of the world’s biggest airports.

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #9 Kunming International Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #9 Kunming International Airport

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Kunming is a Chinese airport located in the Yunnan Province. The airport has two runways and opened in 2012. Kunming serves as a hub for airlines such as China Eastern Airlines, Kunming Airlines, Lucky Air, Sichuan Airlines, or China Southern Airlines.

File:长水内部 - panoramio.jpg
Kunming Airport — Source: Wikimedia

#8 — Denver International Airport (DEN)

Ranking
Denver International Airport is one of the rare remaining non-Chinese airports in the top 10 of the world’s biggest airports. Additionally, Denver is another rare Western airport that climbed on the list. With a passenger decline of 51.5%, Denver handled almost 34 million passengers in 2020. As a result, Denver climbed eight positions from position 16 to eight.

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #8 Denver International Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #8 Denver International Airport

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Denver is one of the main U.S. airports located in Colorado. The airport has six runways and is the second-largest airport by land area. Opened in 1995, DEN currently has non-stop service to 215 destinations amongst 23 different airlines throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia; it is the fourth airport in the U.S. to exceed 200 destinations. In addition, the airport is a hub for United Airlines and Frontier Airlines.

Denver Airport

#7 — Beijing International Airport (PEK)

Ranking
Beijing International Airport represents another Asian airport that suffered from a decline in international traffic. With a reduction of 65.5% in passenger number, the airport handled “only” 34.5 million passengers in 2020. Accordingly, Beijing lost five positions and ranks 7th.

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #7 Beijing International Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #7 Beijing International Airport

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Beijing International Airport is one of two international airports in China’s capital. It had become the busiest airport in Asia regarding passenger traffic and total traffic movements by 2009. It also has been the world’s second busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic since 2010. Beijing Airport has three runways and is one of few airports that has handled more than 100 million passengers in a year (2019).

Beijing Airport

#6 — Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport (CKG)

Ranking
With Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport, we have another Chinese airport at six. Again, Chongqing had to manage one of the smallest passenger reductions (22%). As a result, the Chinese airport skyrockets an incredible 42 positions. Overall, Chongqing ranks 6th with almost 35 million passengers.

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #6 Chongqing International Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #6 Chongqing International Airport

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Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport is located in Yubei District, Chongqing, People’s Republic of China. The airport has three terminals: Terminal 2 serving domestic flights and Terminal 3A other domestic flights and all international flights, while Terminal 1 is currently closed. The first, second, and third phases of the airport came into operation in January 1990, December 2004, and December 2010. The airport serves as a hub for China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Chongqing Airlines, Shandong Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, West Air, and Xiamen Air.

File:Terminal 3 of Chongqing Jiangbei Airport.jpg
Chongqing Airport — Source: Wikimedia

Top 5 — The World’s Biggest Airports

#5 — Shenzhen International Airport (SZX)

Ranking
At position five of the world’s biggest airports, we can find another Chinese airport: Shenzhen International Airport. Like some other Chinese airports, Shenzhen had a moderate reduction in passenger volume (28.4%). Therefore, Shenzhen climbed 21 positions. Overall, the airport handled 37.9 million passengers in 2020.

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #5 Shenzhen International Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #5 Shenzhen International Airport

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Shenzhen International Airport is located in China’s south and opened in 1991. The airport operates three terminals and two runways. It is one of the three largest airport hubs serving the Pearl River Delta, alongside Hong Kong International Airport and Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport. In addition, the airport serves as a hub for airlines such as Donghai Airlines, SF Airlines, or Shenzhen Airlines.

Shenzhen Airport

#4 — Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

Ranking
Dallas/Fort Worth climbs six positions and ranks fourth among the world’s biggest airports. However, the airport recorded a decline in passenger numbers of 47.5%. As a result, DFW handled almost 40 million passengers ins 2020.

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #4 Dallas International Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #4 Dallas International Airport

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Dallas/Fort Worth is one of North America’s major airport hubs. DFW Airport has service to 260 destinations, including 67 international and 193 domestic destinations within the U.S. In surpassing 200 destinations, DFW joined a small group of airports worldwide with that distinction. In addition, Dallas Airport has seven runways and serves as a major hub for American Airlines.

File:DFWAirportOverview.jpg
Dallas / Fort Worth Airport — Source Wikimedia

#3 — Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport (CTU)

Ranking
At position three of the world’s biggest airports, we have another Asian airport that skyrockets the ranking. Chengdu International Airport climbed an incredible number of 21 positions. With a passenger decline of 27%, the airport handled more than 40 million passengers in 2020.

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #3 Chengdu International Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #3 Chengdu International Airport

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Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport is the major international airport serving Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, China. Shuangliu Airport is an important aviation hub for Western China. Shuangliu Airport is one of the two core hubs for Air China, Beijing, and the main hub and headquarters for Sichuan Airlines and Chengdu Airlines. In addition, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Lucky Air, and Tibet Airlines also have bases at Shuangliu Airport.

File:Chengdu Airport (14960539815).jpg
Chengdu Airport — Source: Wikimedia

#2 — Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

Ranking
For 20 years, Atlanta International Airport has been the world’s biggest airport. However, Corona changes everything, and Atlanta lost the prestigious title. Tackled by a passenger decline of 60%, Atlanta handled “only” 42.9 million passengers in 2020. Therefore, the airport loses one position and wins the silver medal.

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #2 Atlanta International Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #2 Atlanta International Airport

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Atlanta International Airport is the primary international airport serving Atlanta, Georgia, United States. ATL is the primary hub of Delta Air Lines and is a focus city for low-cost carriers Frontier Airlines and Southwest Airlines. With just over 1,000 flights a day to 225 domestic and international destinations, the Delta hub is the world’s largest airline hub. The airport has international service within North America, South America, Central America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Atlanta Airport

#1 — Guangzhou International Airport (CAN)

Ranking
And here we go — the gold medal and goes to Guangzhou International Airport. For the first time ever, an Asian airport holds the prestigious title of “the world’s biggest airport.” Although Guangzhou lost 40% of its passenger volume, the airport managed almost 44 million passengers. Accordingly, Guangzhou climbed ten places to rank first!

World's Biggest Airports in 2020 — #1 Guangzhou International Airport
World’s Biggest Airports in 2020 — #1 Guangzhou International Airport

Base data
Guangzhou Internation Airport is the major airport of Guangzhou, Guangdong province, in Southern China. The airport serves as a hub for China Southern Airlines, FedEx Express, 9 Air, Hainan Airlines and Shenzhen Airlines. Before Corona hit the world, Guangzhou International Airport was China’s third-busiest and the world’s 11th-busiest airport by passenger traffic, with 65.8 million passengers handled. As for cargo traffic, the airport was China’s third-busiest and the third-busiest airport nationwide in terms of aircraft movements.

File:Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport.JPG
Guangzhou Airport — Source: Wikimedia

The World’s Biggest Airports — What’s your Opinion?

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Benjamin is a content-maniac, music-lover, aviation-enthusiast, and CEO of Information Design (in this order). His daily business revolves around pioneering solutions to change the way airlines, airports, and aviators use information. His visions are based on expertise gained in more than 15 years in the industry and working with renowned airlines + airports worldwide.

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