Top 10 international airports

Arabian Supply Chain provides a guide to the world's busiest airports.


Air travel is proving increasingly popular, with airports across the globe reporting rising passenger numbers in recent years. After trawling through several reports, Arabian Supply Chain provides a guide to the world's 10 busiest hubs.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (United States)

Despite its humble beginnings in 1925, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has emerged as the world’s busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic, landings and take-offs.

The facility is located around 11km south of Atlanta’s central business district and handled 90 million passengers in 2008 and 978,824 flights.

The airport has announced a Capital Improvement Programme (CIP), valued at US$6 billion, to expand capacity and improve efficiency.

Airlines with a presence at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport include American Airlines, British Airways, Korean Air, KLM, Lufthansa and United Airlines.

O'Hare International Airport (United States)

Located in Chicago, the large-scale O'Hare International Airport has four passenger terminals, which handled a total of 69,353,654 passengers in 2008.

The US government has recently commissioned the O'Hare Modernisation Program (OMP), a US$6.6 billion initiative that aims to reconfigure the airport's runways into a more modern, parallel layout. Once completed, the airport is expected to experience fewer delays.

Analysts believe this initiative, which requires a further 433 acres of land, will help increase economic activity from US$38 billion to $56 billion a year.

This modernisation is spurred on by production of the new Airbus A380 Super-Jumbo and includes an additional runway, which is expected to be up and running by 2009.

Airlines with a presence at the airport include Continental Airlines, United Airlines, Lufthansa, Air Canada, Air France, British Airways, Etihad Airways, Royal Jordanian, Turkish Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.

London Heathrow Airport (United Kingdom)

London Heathrow Airport is the flagship airport of the United Kingdom and the busiest in the European Union in terms of passenger traffic.

Located 22km west from Central London, the airport is owned by BAA and handled a total of 67,056,228 passengers in 2008 – a decrease of 1.5% compared to the previous year. So far in 2009, the airport has handled 31,230,800 passengers between January and June, which is a decline of 3.8%.

Airlines with a presence at Heathrow Airport include Lufthansa, South African Airways, Air Algérie, Air France, Royal Air Maroc, Yemenia, Air India, British Airways, Emirates, Gulf Air, Iran Air, Kuwait Airways, Middle East Airlines, Oman Air, Pakistan International Airlines, Qatar Airways, Royal Brunei, Royal Jordanian, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.

Tokyo International Airport (Japan)

Tokyo International Airport opened in 1931 and was originally the capital's main hub for international air traffic before the development of Narita Airport in 1978. Since then, the hub has assumed responsibility for the Japanese capital's domestic travellers.

The hub is located some 30 minutes south of central Tokyo. It consists of three runways and three terminal buildings, with Terminal 1 used by Japan Airlines and its subsidiary carriers. Terminal 2 is designated for All Nippon Airways and affiliated airlines, while a small number of overseas flights operate from the international terminal.

Expansion is underway, with a fourth runway expected to be operational by 2010. Another terminal for international flights should also be complete in two year's time.

The five-storey building, which includes 2300 car parking spaces, will be financed through a private finance initiative. Passengers can travel to the terminal using the Tokyo monorail and Keikyu Airport Line. An international air cargo facility will be built nearby.

Like most hubs, Tokyo International Airport has several restaurants and cafeterias in the main terminal building. Chinese, Japanese and Western food outlets with views overlooking the runways are available for business and first class passengers. Meanwhile, other travellers can satisfy their appetites at self-service eateries. The hub also has various duty free shops selling the usual items.

With more than 60 million travellers flying in and out of the hub each year, Tokyo International is the busiest airport in Japan.

Beijing Capital International Airport (China)

Beijing Capital International Airport officially opened on October 1, 1999, marking the 50th anniversary of Chinese Communist rule. The new terminal, built for $1.1 billion, replaces the former facility, which started operating in the 1950s and became increasingly cramped following rising passenger numbers.

The new four-storey terminal (including basement level) covers 336,000 sq m - three times the size of the former terminal - and places more emphasis on passenger comfort. The complex also includes a large-scale public parking building and cargo station.

Laser scan technology is used for luggage inspections, while information display boards, computer-aided aircraft guiding systems, and security equipment are also in place. Electronic display boards are installed throughout the airport, providing arrival and departure information in both Chinese and English.

Meanwhile, the Unisys Airport Passenger Processing System (APPS) enables airport personnel to check in travellers and baggage. The system also completes reservations and departure control processes more quickly and efficiently.

When the terminal becomes fully operational, it will be capable of handling 190,000 flights, 35 million passengers and 780,000 tonnes of cargo each year. The building has 51 elevators, 63 escalators, and 26 moving sidewalks.

Beijing is served by international carriers such as Northwest, United, Canadian Airlines, Lufthansa, SAS, Dragon Air, and British Airways. Other carriers operating to and from the hub include Malaysian Air, Austrian Airlines, Air France, Alitalia, Korean Air, Pakistan Airlines and Singapore Airlines.

Several multimedia payphones are located throughout the terminal, enabling travellers to maintain contact with friends and business associates around the globe.

Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (United States)

Offering 690,000 flights in 2007 and serving 59.5 million passengers a year made Dallas Forth Worth International Airport one of the world's busiest. The airport offers 135 domestic and 36 international destinations worldwide.

Six Airbus A380s will be able to dock simultaneously at the building, which can handle 8.5 million passengers a year through its 22 gates.

It is the main hub for American Airlines, which accounts for 800 flights a day. The airport was established following plans to combine hub operations in Dallas and Fort Worth. In 1964, the federal government ordered officials from both regions to choose an airport site. They eventually agreed on a location for a new regional airport that was equidistant from the two city centres. Today, the airport is designed to support easy expansion, with enough surrounding land to develop a further 13 terminals.

In 2007, the airport reportedly contributed US$16.6 billion to the local economy. The airport and its associated businesses have also provided 350,000 jobs and more than $7 billion in payroll. Last year, the airport added a 400,000 sq ft cargo facility.

Dallas Forth Worth was judged 'highest in customer satisfaction for large airports' in North America by JD Power and Associates. It was also named 'best airport for customer service in the Americas' by an Airports Council International survey of passengers in 2006.

Los Angeles International Airport (United States)

Los Angeles International Airport was developed following the city government's decision in 1928 to set aside 2.6 sq km for a new hub.

It is located 15 miles from downtown LA and now covers 14 sq km, including 186,000 sq m of cargo storage facilities. The airport is famous for its architecture, particularly the "Theme Building", which was constructed in 1961. Many believe the building looks like a UFO on four legs.

LAX serves 87 domestic and 69 international destinations in North America, Latin America, Asia and Oceania. It acts as a major hub for United Airlines and Alaska Airlines, while Delta Air Lines uses it as a secondary hub. Other carriers that operate from the hub include US Airlines and Aeromexico.

The airport received more than 61 million passengers, with some 1.8 million tonnes of cargo passing through so far this year via 660,000 airplane movements.

An estimated 59,000 jobs in the area are attributable to the airport. One in 20 jobs across Southern California are linked to Los Angeles International Airport's operations. In March 2007, the new Airbus A380 made its debut at the airport. By August 2007 a $1.2 billion project to construct 10 new gates to accommodate the new Airbus was approved.

"Many of the airlines are buying the larger planes and were looking to go to other airports", says Janice Hahn, City Council spokeswoman. "This sends a message to the airline industry that we want a world-class airport."

Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (France)

Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is France’s principal airport and was named after Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970), leader of the Free French Forces and founder of the French Fifth Republic.

Located 25km to the north-east of Paris, the airport handled 60,851,998 passengers in 2008, in addition to 559,812 aircraft movements - making it the world's fifth busiest airport in terms of passengers.

There are three terminals at the airport, handling both international and domestic traffic, supported by shopping outlets, restaurants and business facilities such as meeting rooms and VIP lounges.

Airlines with a presence at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport include British Airways, EgyptAir, Gulf Air, Kuwait Airways, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Oman Air, Pakistan International Airlines, Qatar Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Thai Airways and US Airways.

Frankfurt International Airport (Germany)

Frankfurt International Airport is the busiest airport in Germany, located 12km southwest of the city centre.

Operated by Fraport, the airport handled a total of 53,467,450 passengers in 2008 – a decrease of 1.3% compared to the previous year. More recently, 24.2 million passengers used the airport in the January-to-June 2009 period, a decline of 8% compared to the same period last year.

Airlines with a presence at Frankfurt airport include Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa, Air Canada, Kuwait Airways, Middle East Airlines, Qatar Airways, Air India, Iran Air, Gulf Air, Royal Jordanian, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Emirates.

There are plans to expand Frankfurt Airport with a fourth runway and a new Terminal 3.

Madrid Barajas Airport (Spain)

Since its opening in 1928, Madrid Barajas Airport has emerged as the main airport in Spain and the fourth busiest in Europe.

Located 13km north-east of central Madrid, approximately 50.8 million passengers used Madrid Barajas Airport in 2008 – a decrease of 2.4% compared to the previous year.

Capacity at Madrid International Airport was doubled in early 2006 with the addition of the new Terminal 4 and two extra runways.

Airlines with a presence at the airport include Air Canada, EgyptAir Cairo, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Air France, Scandinavian Airlines, British Airways and Royal Jordanian.

Most Popular