Ranked: Biggest Airports in the World

There are many words that you can use to describe an airport. Huge, busy, exciting, and even confusing are a few of them. When it comes to the “finest” airports, people have different ideas about what makes an airport great. Some people may think that the best airport is one where there are rarely any air traffic delays or cancellations. Others may think that the best airport is large and has all of their favorite shops and a variety of restaurants to choose from. 

There are airports that have both long and short-term parking spots available for travelers, check-in counters, and security screening stations. Then there are those that offer non-stop service to dozens or hundreds of locations worldwide. Below is a list of the ten largest airports in the world:

Biggest Airports in the World

1. King Fahd International Airport

King Fahd International Airport (KFIA) is located in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. It’s the hub for Saudia and Sama Airlines and has a capacity to handle over 25 million passengers per year. The airport serves as the gateway to those visiting the port city of Dammam and the surrounding areas of Ras Tanura, Qatif, Al Khobar, Dhahran, and Jubail Industrial City.

King Fahd International Airport

The King Fahad International Airport has three passenger terminals: the Passenger Terminal for general airline traffic, the Aramco Terminal for employees of the state-run oil company (Aramco), and the Royal Terminal for royal family members.

In the 1970s, both architectural firms Yamasaki & Associates and Boeing Aerosystems International began working on the design of a new airport and presented their master plan in 1976. Construction occurred in 1983, and the airport was first opened for commercial operations in 1999. [1]

2. Denver International Airport

Denver International Airport

In the 1990s, Denver International Airport (DIA) was expanded to meet the city’s growing needs. The airport is now the largest in the US and the fifth busiest airport in the world. It is also the third busiest airport in America behind Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois.

The airport has five runways, four measuring 12,000 feet in length and one measuring 16,000 feet – the longest commercial runway in North America. [2]

Currently, DIA consists of three concourses on one terminal and a total of 37 gates. Concourse A houses 12 gates, B has 16 gates, and C has 9 gates for a total of 37 passenger gates with more room for expansion as needed. Gate areas at Denver International Airport each have at least one restaurant or bar for travelers to enjoy after passing through security checkpoints, including Papa John’s Pizza & Brew and Rocky Mountain Oyster Bar, located in Concourse C (also known as Concourse of Champions) at Gate 81A. [3]

3. Dallas/Fort Worth International

Dallas-Fort Worth International

One of the largest airports in the world, Dallas/Fort Worth International boasts seven runways and a staggering traffic count of about 70 million passengers per year. With 184 gates, it’s little wonder that landing times are scheduled far apart—if you don’t want to stay on your flight with those pesky connections, this is one of the best airports at which to land. 

Pro tip: Don’t look at it as an extra layover; think of it as getting to spend more time in Texas (and you know how much they love their state).

4. Orlando International

Orlando International

Orlando International Airport, also known as OIA, is the fourth busiest airport in the United States by passenger traffic. The airport serves Orlando and is located 6 miles (9.7 km) southeast of downtown Orlando. It has four runways and one terminal with two piers, A & B/C, and two airside facilities Airside 1 & 3, that can handle nearly fifty million passengers a year. 

In 2018 the airport had 41,095,987 domestic passengers making it the 11th busiest airport in the US by passenger traffic. [4]

5. Washington Dulles International

Washington Dulles International

Washington Dulles International Airport serves Washington, DC, and its surrounding region as the area’s primary airport. The airport is located 26 miles west of downtown Washington in Loudoun County, Virginia, and Fairfax County, Virginia. It was named after John Foster Dulles, who was secretary of state under Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In 2018, Dulles had over 23 million passengers pass through it, making it the second-busiest airport in the DC area. It has four runways and one terminal with five concourses.

Dulles is a hub for United Air Lines and also serves as a focus city for JetBlue Airways.

6. Beijing Daxing International

Beijing Daxing International

Beijing Daxing International Airport is located 19 miles south of downtown Beijing. The airport has a capacity of 45 million passengers annually but is projected to hit 100 million in the future, making it one of the busiest airports in China and the world.

The airport officially opened on 26 September 2019, after spending five years under construction and $12 billion in costs. It was designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, and it covers almost 18 square miles of land.

Of course, there are numerous other airports across Asia that are much smaller than Beijing Daxing International Airport (such as Tokyo Haneda Airport), but they’re still larger than all non-Asian major international airports.

7. George Bush Intercontinental

George Bush Intercontinental

Located in the city of Houston, Texas, George Bush Intercontinental Airport offers an astonishing five runways and five terminals. With a total area of 17.19 square miles, it is one of the largest airports in Texas. The airport was opened in 1969 and was named after George H. W. Bush, the 41st president of the US. 

Since then, it has expanded at a truly rapid rate and now services more than 200 destinations.

8. Shanghai Pudong International

Shanghai Pudong International

Compared to the other airports on this list, Shanghai Pudong is a young gun. It opened on 1 October 1999 and immediately became the largest airport terminal in the world, with a total floor space area of more than 1 million square meters (11 million square feet). It went through its first expansion in 2007, and more upgrades are underway.  

9. Cairo International

Cairo International

Egypt’s Cairo International Airport is the second busiest airport in Africa, with 17.5 million passengers in 2018. It has four passenger terminals with parking for 10,000 cars and a bus station. There are plans to add significant new facilities to the airport, including an additional terminal that will be able to handle 30 million passengers annually.

The airport serves as a hub for EgyptAir, EgyptAir Express, and Nile Air. It handles flights from Europe, Asia, and Africa. Flights from European destinations include London, Paris, and Rome, while those from Asia include Dubai and Kuwait. On the African continent, they serve Johannesburg and Tunis while also servicing domestic destinations such as Luxor and Hurghada on the Red Sea coast of Egypt.

Located 15 kilometers east of Cairo city center, there are plans to build a rail line directly into downtown Cairo that would decrease travel time between the city center and airport by more than half the current time taken by road (1-hour vs. 40 minutes).

10. Suvarnabhumi International

Suvarnabhumi International

Located in Bangkok, Thailand, Suvarnabhumi International is the country’s largest airport. Serving as a hub for Thai Airways, the facility opened in 2006 and is the 11th busiest airport in Asia. It features two terminals that can accommodate more than 45 million passengers per year. There are also three runways capable of handling 100 air traffic movements per hour.

Suvarnabhumi Airport serves over 95 airlines and provides nonstop links to destinations in East Asia and Europe. Its main concourse area spans more than four kilometers (2.5 miles) long and offers over 300 retail outlets and food establishments to travelers waiting for flights or getting their first taste of Thailand upon arrival in Bangkok.

The airport’s advanced technology has made it one of the most efficient facilities on Earth – able to accommodate twice as many travelers as originally planned despite its limited land area

Conclusion

Airports are a big deal. The world’s airports transported a total of 3.8 billion people in 2016, and they will certainly transport even more this year—barely over half of the world’s population has ever been on an airplane, which means there’s still plenty of room for growth [5]. If you want to get in on the action, look at what China’s doing. With heavy investments, the country’s building new airports, and the government officials say that around 450 airports will be needed in the country by 2035. [6]

If you’re interested in seeing what all this expansion has wrought, one option is to simply get on a plane and go see the world’s biggest airports firsthand.

References

  1. https://yamm.finance/wiki/King_Fahd_International_Airport.html
  2. https://www.flydenver.com/about/media_center/runways_airfield
  3. https://www.flydenver.com/airport_facilities
  4. https://ftnnews.com/aviation/36249-orlando-international-named-florida-s-busiest-airport-in-2018
  5. https://www.iata.org/en/pressroom/pr/2016-10-18-02/ 
  6. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/china-new-airports/index.html