The World's Busiest Airports – Dubai Inches Closer to the Top Spot

by Oliver Smith, The Telegraph, April 10, 2018

Dubai inched closer to becoming the world’s busiest airport last year, new figures have revealed, closing the gap to Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta - the current number one - to just under 16m passengers.

The UAE hub handled 88.2m fliers in 2017, according to Airports Council International’s annual report, an increase of 5.5 per cent, while Hartsfield–Jackson welcomed 103.9m - down 0.3 per cent. Should growth continue at this rate, Dubai could overtake Atlanta within three years.

It will also have to surpass Beijing, however. The world’s second busiest airport received 95.8m in 2017 - up 1.5 per cent year-on-year. Tokyo (85m) and Los Angeles (84.6m) complete the top five.

Top 20 | The world's busiest airports

The rise of Dubai International Airport over the last 15 years has been remarkable. A shade over 18m passengers used it in 2003 - this rose to 37.4m in 2008, 66.4m in 2013 before reaching 88.2m last year. It is already the world’s busiest airport for international passengers, ahead of London Heathrow.

At a glance | The rise of Dubai International Airport

Only three of the world’s 50 busiest airports reported a fall in passenger numbers last year, three of which are America (Atlanta, Miami and Houston). Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport was the other. Hubs in Asia saw the steepest increases, with Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi seeing 14.1 per cent growth (to 63.5m), Xi'an Xianyang International 13.1 per cent (to 41.9m), Kuala Lumpur 11.2 per cent (58.5m) and Guangzhou Baiyun 10.2 per cent (to 65.8m).

Heathrow was seventh overall, down from sixth in 2015 and third in 2014. Gatwick came 32nd, up from 36th last year and 40th in 2010.

The world’s busiest airport

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International has held the top spot since 1998 (that's 20 years in a row). Almost 104 million passengers passed through its terminals in 2017 – slightly more than the population of the Philippines. Here are some more vital statistics.


Number who fly annually on its busiest route, to Orlando, Florida. Next up is the service to New York–LaGuardia, which gets 1,202,100.


Number who fly on its busiest international route, to Amsterdam. Slightly less (761,191) fly from Atlanta to Paris each year.


The biggest airline at Atlanta, by some margin, is Delta. It operates 72.73 per cent of flights. Southwest is next with 11.12 per cent.


Per cent of US population within a two-hour flight of Atlanta, according to airport authorities.


The airport’s rating out of 10 according to the review site Skytrax.

The world's worst airports 

The world’s best airports

The list of the world's best airports, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a little different. Announced last month by the website Skytrax, and based on the opinions of millions of travellers, it is topped by Singapore's Changi Airport, which can boast everything from two free 24-hour cinemas to a butterfly garden housing 1,000 species and a six-metre waterfall. Incheon International, with its gardens, free showers and sauna, comes second. Munich - which has it own beer garden, complete with chestnut trees and a maypole - is the best in Europe.

  1. Singapore Changi
  2. Incheon, Seoul
  3. Tokyo (Haneda)
  4. Hong Kong
  5. Hamad International, Doha
  6. Munich
  7. Chubu Centrair Nagoya
  8. London Heathrow
  9. Zurich 
  10. Frankfurt


This article was written by Oliver Smith from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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