1.5 billion more passengers flew last year than in 2022. These are the 10 busiest airports in the world.

  • New data on the world's busiest airports in 2023 reveals the latest trends in global travel.

  • 8.5 billion passengers traveled by plane last year, almost marking a return to pre-pandemic levels. 

  • Airports in Asia and the Middle East became busier, but the US has once again clinched the top spot.

International travel is almost back to pre-pandemic levels, according to the just-released list of the world's busiest airports in 2023.

8.5 billion passengers traveled globally by plane last year — up from 7 billion passengers in 2022.

The rise in air travel marks a recovery to 93.8% of levels in 2019 before the world shut down, according to preliminary data published by the Airports Council International (ACI), a trade association that includes 2,600 airports worldwide.

Increasing travel to airports in Asia and the Middle East was one of the key trends to emerge from the data, with Dubai International Airport jumping from the fifth to the second busiest airport in the world.

Airports in India, Japan, and Turkey also made it into the top 10 and were some of the biggest movers in terms of annual gains in passenger numbers.

As the world's largest domestic market for flights, US airports still make up five of the busiest airports in the world, with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport retaining its No. 1 position.

Despite tough global economic conditions, there was "a growing inclination towards travel," Luis Felipe de Oliveira, the ACI's world director general, said in a press release.

"Airports continue to demonstrate their resilience and adaptability amidst the challenges posed by the ever-evolving landscape of global travel," said Oliveira.

Here's a closer look at the top 10 busiest airports in the world.

10. Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, India

Indira Gandhi International Airport
Indira Gandhi International Airport. Tooykrub / Shutterstock.com

Passengers: 72.2 million

2022 ranking: 9th

Delhi's main airport, Indira Gandhi International Airport, saw a 21.4% increase in year-on-year traffic. While it has dropped a place this year, Delhi has grown significantly as a transport hub since 2019, when it sat at number 19 in the rankings.

9. Chicago O’Hare International Airport, USA

Chicago O'Hare Airport Snow American Airlines
A snowstorm at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois.Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters

Passengers: 73.9 million

2022 ranking: 4th

Travel through Chicago O'Hare jumped by 8.1% throughout 2023. O'Hare is a hub airport for domestic travel, particularly for United and American Airlines flights. It is also a focus city for low-cost rivals Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines.

8. Los Angeles International Airport, USA

Los Angeles International Airport
Los Angeles International Airport.Eric Glenn/Shutterstock

Passengers: 75.1 million

2022 ranking: 6th

Travel through LAX was up 13.8% in 2023, however, compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, passengers at the West Coast airport decreased by 14.8% — the largest decrease of any airport in the top ten rankings. LAX is a hub for a number of carriers, including Alaska Airlines, United, American, and Delta. But domestic travel at the airport shrunk dramatically as airlines cut the number of flights following a series of meltdowns in 2022.

7. Istanbul Airport, Turkey

Istanbul Airport.
Istanbul Airport.gokcentunc/Shutterstock.com

Passengers: 76 million

2022 ranking: 7th

Passenger numbers at Turkey's Istanbul airport have increased by 18.3%, making it the only transit hub to keep level with its previous ranking in the top 10. Notably, traffic through the airport has jumped by 45.7% since 2019.

6. Denver International Airport, USA

Travelers pass through a TSA security checkpoint during a winter storm at Denver International Airport on February 22, 2023 in Denver, Colorado.
A TSA security checkpoint at Denver International Airport.Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Passengers: 77.8 million

2022 ranking: 3rd

Denver Airport has dropped down several places on the list but still shows strong signs of growth in terms of passengers. In the last year traffic through the Colorado airport was up 12.3%, and it has also grown 12.8% from pre-pandemic levels.

5. Tokyo Haneda International Airport, Japan

Tokyo Interational Haneda Airport
Tokyo Haneda International Airport. Sean Pavone / iStock

Passengers: 78.7 million

2022 ranking: 16th

Japan's Tokyo Haneda Airport saw the largest increase in traffic by far, with passenger numbers surging by 55.1%. Some of that jump can be explained by a lag in tourism as Japan only reopened its borders in late 2022. Despite the jump, Tokyo Haneda is still 7.9% under its 2019 level of traffic. This January the airport made headlines after a fatal collision involving a Japan Airlines plane and a coastguard vehicle killed five people.

4. London Heathrow, UK

Passengers queue to go through security in departures at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport.
Passengers line up to go through security in departures at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport.Steve Parsons - PA Images via Getty Images

Passengers: 79.2 million

2022 ranking: 8th

Travel through the UK's largest airport shot up by 218% in 2022 and has once again made strong gains throughout 2023, jumping by a slightly more modest 28.5%. The airport has credited travel from the Asia-Pacific region as a major factor in its increased passenger numbers. It hopes to supersede its pre-pandemic level of traffic in 2024 and hit a record 81.4 million passengers, the airport said in a report published in December.

3. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, USA

Dallas/Fort Worth airport.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.LJ Jones/Shutterstock

Passengers: 81.8 million

2022 ranking: 2nd

Dallas/Fort Worth airport, known as DFW, is American Airlines' busiest hub and the departure city for many of the airline's international flights. Last year traffic through the airport jumped by 11.4%.

2. Dubai International Airport, UAE

Dubai International Airport
Departures at Dubai International Airport in February 2022.KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images

Passengers: 87 million

2022 ranking: 5th

Dubai took the number 2 ranking in the list for the first time, thanks to a significant 31.7% increase in passenger numbers. Dubai's new position reflects the heavy investment that has gone into the aviation industry and boosting tourism in the region.

1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, USA

Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. REUTERS/Tami Chappell

Passengers: 104.7 million

2022 ranking: 1st

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport comes in at No. 1 as the busiest airport in the world, a position it has held for more than two decades. In 2023, the Atlanta airport saw an 11.7% increase in passenger numbers.

Here's a look at what it takes to be an air traffic controller at the world's busiest airport.

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