Air travel has become a vital piece of the global economy. It is the most popular means of travel over long distances due to its speed and relative level of safety. As a result, cities around the world have adapted quickly, building enormous airports and other infrastructural projects to meet the demand of the ever-growing passenger base.
Some of these projects are truly breathtaking and outfit themselves for a market on the upward trend. The King Fahd International Airport in Dammam, Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest airport property by area. Taking up nearly 300 square miles, King Fahd International is about the size of New York City.
The Beijing Daxing airport in Beijing, China has the greatest square footage of any airport terminal in the world. It’s facilities total close to 7.5 million square feet, the equivalent of 130 football fields. Beijing Daxing was designed in a unique “starfish” configuration to optimize the egress of passengers. Although Beijing Daxing hasn’t yet seen the influx of passengers sufficient to take full advantage of its architecture, the airport is projected to be the busiest in the world by 2040.
The list of the world’s largest airports by square mileage:
- King Fahd International (299.61) Saudi Arabia
- Denver International (53.09) United States
- Dallas/Fort Worth International (26.88) United States
- Orlando International (20.78) United States
- Washington Dulles International (18.75) United States
- Beijing Daxing International (18) China
- George Bush Intercontinental (17.19) United States
- Shanghai Pudong International (15.4) China
- Cairo International (14) Egypt
- Suvarnabhumi (12.51) Thailand
Worth considering alongside the world’s largest airports are the world’s busiest airports. The two don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. King Fahd International, for example, hosts only about 9.7 million passengers annually, which places it well outside the top 100 in terms of traffic. In fact, King Fahd International isn’t even the busiest airport in Saudi Arabia. That title belongs to the King Abdulaziz International airport in Jeddah which sees 41 million passengers annually, many of whom seek pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.
Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta has had the highest rate of passenger traffic every year since 1998. This may come as a bit of a surprise, as Atlanta isn’t even one of the top 10 most populous cities in the United States. However, Atlanta is, at maximum, a two hour flight from over 80% of the US population. It’s convenient proximity and reputation as a hotspot for business and tourism, burdens Hartsfield-Jackson with over 110 million passengers per year.
One would expect New York City, the largest city in the US and arguably the most important city in the world, to make an appearance on this list and certainly be among the juggernauts in the United States. However, because New York’s traffic is split between three airports, much smaller cities such as Atlanta, Denver, and Dallas/Fort Worth all exceed the traffic of each individual New York City airport.
However, New York City’s predicament is worth taking into consideration, and if we combine the traffic of all three of New York’s airports, the city serves about 130 million annually, exceeding Hartsfield-Jackson by a sizable margin.
Lots of major cities have multiple airports. If we take into consideration every airport within a city’s metropolitan area, then London is the busiest city by air-passenger traffic. London has six total airports located within its metropolitan area and while only two of them crack the top 50 in traffic, they collaboratively transported around 177 million passengers in 2018.
The list of the world’s busiest airports by 2019 passengers:
- Atlanta (110,531,300) United States
- Beijing (100,011,000) China
- Los Angeles (88,068,013) United States
- Dubai (86,396,575) United Arab Emirates
- Tokyo (85,505,054) Japan
- Chicago O’hare (84,397,776) United States
- London Heathrow (80,844,310) United Kingdom
- Shanghai Pudong (76,153,500) China
- Paris (76,150,007) France
- Dallas/Fort Worth (75,066,956) United States