Airports are one thing to look at when judging how important a country or a region is, because they give a few good insights on how visited that country or region is or how much valued it is on an international level.
The demand for flights has sky rocketed in recent years, with the exception of the last two when the pandemic struck, but even so, airports have evolved to become small cities, swarming with people from all over the world, making them some of the busiest places in the world.
With that in mind, we were curious to find out which are the largest airports in the world in 2022. For that we looked at two aspects, the largest when it comes to the surface they’re covering and the largest when you look at the passenger traffic they’re experiencing.
One thing to note here is that when it comes to passenger traffic, we based our list on the latest available data from 2021, which was still heavily influenced by the pandemic. That means things have changed a lot since 2019, and those numbers might go back to the pre-pandemic levels once everything is over, but that remains to be seen.
But let’s take a look at the largest and busiest airports in the world in 2022:
The 10 Largest Airports by Area
Judging by the surface they cover, these are the 10 largest right now:
10. Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) – 32.4 sq. km
Based in Bangkok, Thailand, the Suvarnabhumi Airport made it to number 10 with a surface of 32.4 square kilometers, or 12.5 square miles.
Opened back in 2006, it’s one of the biggest airports in Southeast Asia, home to 95 airlines that operate from there. Its name is the Sanskrit word for “land of gold”.
9. Cairo International Airport (CAI) – 37 sq. km
The main airport of Egypt, the Cairo International Airport covers 37 square kilometers, or 14.3 square miles. It opened its gates back in 1963 and features 3 main terminals.
It’s the second busiest airport on the African continent.
8. Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) – 40 sq. km
The Shanghai Pudong International Airport is China’s second biggest airport and one of the two major ones in Shanghai. When it comes to the number of passengers, it’s the busiest international gateway in China, with 35 million passengers passing through every year.
It features 6 runways and 3 passenger terminals and covers a surface of 40 square kilometers or 15.4 square miles.
7. George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) – 40.5 sq. km
Opened back in 1969 as the Houston Intercontinental Airport, it got renamed after the 41st president of the United States, George H. W. Bush in 1997.
The Texas based airport has 5 operational runways and covers 40.5 square kilometers or 16 square miles of land. Every year, there are around 45 million passengers traveling through the George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
6. Beijing Daxing International Airport (PKX) – 46.6 sq. km
Nicknamed “The Starfish” due to its impressive single building airport terminal, which is the largest in the world, the Beijing Daxing International Airport covers 46.6 square kilometers of land, or 18 square miles.
The airport opened in 2019 and would have become one of the busiest airports in the world if not for the pandemic. It’s currently Beijing’s second international airport, with flights to over 120 world destinations.
What’s more, the Beijing Daxing International Airport was thought out to be environmentally friendly, featuring water management systems, solar panels and waste heat recovery systems, thus limiting the airport’s impact on the environment.
5. Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) – 52.6 sq. km
Named after John Foster Dulles, the 52nd secretary of state of the US, the Washington Dulles International Airport began its operations in 1962.
It covers 52.6 square kilometers, or 20.3 square miles and has around 60k passengers fly daily to more than 125 destinations all over the world.
4. Orlando International Airport (MCO) – 69.6 sq. km
Based in Orlando, Florida, the Orlando International Airport extends across 69.6 square kilometers, or 19.7 square miles of land.
The airport, which has around 50 million people pass through each year, offers more than 135 destinations both in the United States and international. Being an important hub, it features 50 restaurants and 60 shops for people, who, most of them at least, are probably heading to Disney World.
3. Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) – 69.6 sq. km
The Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport is situated between the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth in Texas and covers 69.6 square kilometers or 26.9 square miles, which, to get an idea of the size, is more than the island of Manhattan.
It opened in 1973 and has become the 4th busiest airport in the world, with more than 75 million passengers passing through in 2019. That figure has decreased to 62.4 million in 2021, but that made it the 2nd busiest airport in the world right now.
2. Denver International Airport (DEN) – 135.7 sq. km
Opened only in 1995, the Denver International Airport covers a whooping 135.7 square kilometers, or 52.4 square miles, which makes it 1.5 times the size of the island of Manhattan.
One other interesting fact is that it has the longest public use runway in all of North America, with over 3 miles in length. The airport has flights to over 215 destinations around the world and for traveling inside the airport you’ve got to use an automated train system.
It’s the largest airport in the United States and benefits of gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountains to the west.
1. King Fahd International Airport (DMM) – 776 sq. km
Inaugurated in 1999 and situated near Dammam, the King Fahd International Airport makes all others seem like toys. The Saudi Arabian airport covers no less than 776 square kilometers, or 299.6 square miles, on a land that was a former US airbase during the Gulf War.
It was named after the former King of Saudi Arabia, Fahd Ibn Abdulaziz and has flights to only 43 destinations, seeing around 10 million passengers a year. Small numbers considering its huge size.
The 10 Busiest Airports by Passenger Traffic Right Now
When it comes to the total number of passengers that pass through the airport in one year, the top looks like this:
10. Las Vegas Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) – 39.7 million
Situated in Paradise, Nevada, the Harry Reid International Airport (formerly called the McCarran International Airport) shares both civilian and military functions, being the main airport in the Las Vegas Valley.
During the pandemic, it saw a 78.6 percent increase in its passenger traffic compared to 2020, which is normal considering that international flights were mostly forbidden.
It had a total of 39,754,366 passengers pass through in 2021, making it the 10th busiest airport in the world.
9. Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport (CTU) – 40.1 million
One of the important aviation hubs in Western China and the third busiest in the capital of Sichuan province of China, the Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport kept its pace with only a 1.5 percent increase from 2020, allowing the passing of around 40.1 million passengers in 2021.
8. Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN) – 40.2 million
The Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport is the main one in Guangzhou, the capital of the Chinese province Guangdong and China’s largest transportation hub.
Figures for 2021 show 40.2 million passengers passed through it, an 8 percent decrease from 2020, because of the pandemic.
7. Orlando International Airport (MCO) – 40.3 million
The Orlando International Airport is both the fourth largest airport in the world by area, and now the seventh busiest in the world, with 40.3 million passengers.
It’s a very important international gateway for Florida and the surrounding region, and saw a whooping 86.7 percent increase in traffic during the pandemic, thanks to the fact that most Americans would probably choose to travel in country when most borders around the world were closed.
6. Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) – 43.2 million
Located in North Carolina, the Charlotte Douglas International Airport is another dual use airport, with both civilian and military aircrafts operating from it. The interesting thing is that it’s financially operated on a fully self sustaining basis.
Its passenger traffic figures increased in 2021 with 59.2 percent from the 2020 figures, reaching 43.2 million passengers last year.
5. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) – 48.0 million
The Los Angeles International Airport used to be the third busiest airport in the world before the pandemic, with more than 88 million passengers passing through its gates.
Its position on the West Coast makes it a very important hub and gateway to so many international destinations around the world, especially Asia and the Pacific.
Despite the importance, its traffic decreased a lot, reaching a very low 48 million passengers in 2021.
4. Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) – 54.0 million
The Chicago O’Hare International Airport had the same fate like the Los Angeles above, with a decrease in traffic from 84 million passengers before the pandemic, to only 54 million in 2021.
But that also made it win two positions in the top 10 busiest airports in the world, from 6 to 4.
Located on the northwest side of Chicago, it’s one of the most important transportation hubs in the United States.
3. Denver International Airport (DEN) – 58.8 million
Located in Colorado, the Denver International Airport brings over $26 billion per year in revenue, playing a very important role for the region and the United States in general.
The Denver International Airport has risen in ranks as well thanks to the pandemic, as it wasn’t even in the top 10 busiest airports in the world before. Today, after an increase of almost 75 percent from 2020, when the world literally stopped, it’s a gateway for around 58.8 million passengers, which makes it the third busiest airport in the world.
That probably won’t last too long and go back to the old ranking once everything is over with the pandemic and life goes back to normal, without traveling restrictions, but at least for now, it is what it is.
2. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW): 62.4 million
It’s no wonder that the third largest airport in the world in terms of area, the Dallas / Forth Worth International Airport, is also one of the busiest in the world.
Before the pandemic, it was the 10th busiest in the world and the 4th busiest in the United States, with over 75 million passengers passing through its gates every year. It even has its own ZIP code.
Two years into the pandemic and things changed, with the total number of passengers dropping from 75 million to 62.4 million, which wasn’t that bad since it made Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport the second busiest airport in the world.
It’s the largest hub for American Airlines, which is why it probably did quite well when more and more Americans started traveling inside the United States.
1. Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL): 75.7 million
The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was and still is the busiest airport in the world, even after the pandemic hit.
It’s the primary airport serving the Atlanta area in Georgia, and it makes sense to be one of the busiest aviation hubs, since many flights from Europe get through there.
It first got the title of the busiest airport in the world in 1998 and held to it until the pandemic.
It used to see around 110 million passengers through its busy gates back in 2019, lost the title in 2020 to the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in China and today it reaches 75.7 million in passenger traffic, regaining its title.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a dramatic impact on airports and traffic around the world, changing the ranking when it comes to the busiest airports in the world. Air companies and airports scored huge losses, especially in 2020, but the industry is slowly coming back now.
The total number of passengers traveling has dropped in 2021 by more than 50% as compared to the 2019 figures, which has changed the top 10 busiest airports.
The following years will probably see even more changes, with probably the airports that had massive traffic in the past coming back on top.