US tops world’s 20 busiest airports 2022 listing

World’s 20 busiest airports
Hong Kong, the home of Cathay Pacific, remained the No.1 air cargo hub in 2022, but volumes fell 16.5% y-o-y to 4.2 million metric tons from 5.02 mmt in 2021, as weak demand reflected a general slowdown in the global economy. Photo from Cathay Pacific
  • 10 US airports among the world’s top 20 busiest hubs in 2022 serving over 6.6 billion travelers
  • Atlanta was the No.1 airport with 93.7 passengers while Hong Kong was the top cargo hub
  • Top 20 airports accounted for 1.2 billion passengers or 18% of global traffic
  • Only Louisville and Cincinnati in the US showed cargo volume growth; the rest shrank

United States airports made up half of the world’s top 20 busiest airports in 2022, as more than 6.6 billion people took to air travel globally and economic activity gradually returned to normalcy as countries struggled against more than two years of Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest World Airport Traffic Dataset published by Montreal-based Airports Council International World (ACI World) on July 19 revealed airport passenger, cargo, and aircraft movement rankings for over 2,600 airports in more than 180 countries and territories.

ACI World director general Luis Felipe de Oliveira praised the world’s airports for continuing to serve the public’s thirst to travel by air, as shown in a 43.8% increase from 2021 or a 72.5% rebound from pre-pandemic levels.

“Airports have once more proven their resiliency as reflected in the key findings from the ACI World Airport Traffic Dataset. As always, reliable data remains fundamental to our advocacy and development of timely airport guidance,” said de Oliveira, who expects air travel to double in the next 20 years.

“Airports and aviation stakeholders must continue to focus wholeheartedly on building a safe, secure, efficient, and environmentally sustainable air transport system fit to welcome the doubling of passengers that will travel through our doors in the next two decades,” he said in a statement.

The world’s 20 busiest airports for global passenger traffic accounted for 1.2 billion passengers or 18% of global traffic. The global share of international traffic rose from 25.3% in 2021 to 38.4% in 2022, the report said.

Atlanta Hartsfield–Jackson International Airport in Georgia led the 10 US airports in the top 20 rankings. The gateway recorded 93.7 million passengers in 2022, up 23.8% from 2021.

London Heathrow Airport made the biggest jump in the 20 rankings, leaping from 54th to 8th as the UK government had lifted all travel restrictions by March 2021 after two years of impediment.

Dubai Airport also made a spectacular jump to 5th last year from 27th in 2021, as most airlines avoiding Russia’s ban on foreign planes from its airspace since it invaded Ukraine early last year forced many airlines to stop over at the emirate’s gateway before proceeding to their destinations.

Among Asian air hubs, only New Delhi International Airport and Tokyo International Airport Haneda were in the top 20 rankings in 2022.

Nearly all the top 20 airports reported significant domestic passenger shares of 75%–95%, the report said.

The dataset’s air cargo traffic figures showed global volumes fell 6.7% year on year last year (down 2.6% from 2019 levels) to nearly 117 million metric tons, which, ACI World said, can be attributed to ongoing geopolitical tensions and disruptions to global trade and supply chains.

Hong Kong International Airport remained the No.1 air cargo hub in 2022, but down 16.5% y-o-y in volume to 4.2 million metric tons from 5.02 mmt in 2021, as weak demand reflected a slow global economy.

Even so, Hong Kong and four other Asian airports – Shanghai Pudong, Incheon, Taipei and Tokyo Narita – split the top 10 busiest air cargo hub rankings with US airports Memphis, Anchorage, Louisville, Miami and Los Angeles.

Shanghai Pudong fell to No. 4 in 2022 from No.3 a year earlier as the Chinese financial and industrial center was hobbled by a new wave of the Covid-19 Omicron variant that forced the city government to enforce months-long lockdowns, crippling its export industries.

ACI World noted that air cargo traffic was more concentrated among the main airports, with volumes in the top 20 representing around 42% (49.5 mmt) of the global volumes.

Memphis International Airport in Tennessee retained its No.2 rank as the global hub of Delta Air Lines and FedEx Express handled 4.02 mmt last year, down 9.8% from its 2021 throughput.

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport – Amazon Air’s primary US hub and DHL Express’ Global Superhub for the Americas – posted 16.8% cargo volume growth among the top 20 airports.

Global aircraft movements were close to 85 million, a gain of 14.8% from 2021 or an 82.4% rebound from pre-pandemic levels. The top 20 airports represent 11.4% of global traffic (9.7 million movements). From the top 20 rankings, 13 airports are in the US.

ACI collects airport traffic every year through its global network of airport operator members, investors, and aviation stakeholders. The dataset allows users to filter through accurate and reliable numbers that can be segmented on a regional, national, and airport level and by traffic type.