Atlanta has done it again, holding off Beijing to retain its title as the world’s busiest passenger airport.
More than 100 million passengers passed though Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International in 2015, a rise of 5.5% over 2014 according to preliminary traffic data released by Airports Council International (ACI).
The report credits Atlanta’s strategic location as a major connecting hub and port of entry into North America for its continuing success, noting that it’s within a two-hour flight of 80% of the United States population.
Though the Georgia airport has held the top spot for 18 years, it was expected to finally lose its crown to the Chinese capital.
“While Beijing was poised to close the gap on Atlanta by 2015, it no longer benefits from the double-digit growth it enjoyed in previous years, and as such remains in second position,” says the report.
“The combination of a Chinese slowdown and capacity constraints has meant lower growth levels at the airport. Beijing grew by 4.4% in total passenger traffic.”
Dubai handled most international traffic in 2015
The one to watch? Definitely Dubai.
The sixth busiest airport in 2014, it moved to third position in 2015, with total passenger traffic growing by 10.7%.
Dubai International Airport is also the world’s busiest in terms of international passengers, ahead of London Heathrow.
The second busiest U.S. airport on the list is Chicago O’Hare, which moved from seventh to fourth position in 2015 thanks to growth of 9.8%.
“After years of congestion, the airport is reaping the benefits of runway expansions and other capacity developments,” says ACI.
(For the complete top 10 list of the world’s busiest passenger airports, see the above gallery.)
When it comes to aircraft movements, U.S. airports continue to dominate.
Atlanta overtook last year’s leader, Chicago, with 882,497 total takeoffs and landings. Chicago had 875,136.
Coming in at third, Dallas Fort Worth saw 681,244 takeoffs and landings in 2015, followed by Los Angeles, with 655,564, and Beijing with 590,169.
More people flying than ever
ACI has 592 member airport authorities, which operate 1,853 airports in 173 countries.
All figures and percentages from this week’s report are based on monthly data submissions by 1,144 major commercial airports. A final version will be released later in the year.
In terms of overall growth for 2015, the report says there was a 6.1% rise in total passengers over 2014.
International passenger growth rose 6.4%, while cargo — including mail — rose 2.4%.
The world’s largest air cargo hub remains Hong Kong. Memphis took the second spot followed by Shanghai.
“It’s impressive to witness the dynamic character of the aviation industry and its evolution over time,” said Angela Gittens, director general of ACI World, in a statement.
“In certain markets, we see both airlines and airport operators expanding and optimizing their capacity in order to accommodate the growing demand for air transport.”
“We’re not the busiest, we’re the most-traveled”
When it comes to public perception, turns out being at the top of the busy list isn’t necessarily a good thing.
In February, Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport announced that it would rather people referred to it as “world’s most-traveled airport.”
General Manager Miguel Southwell told local media that “some really smart marketing people” learned that the word “busy” has a negative connotation.
“So it’s ‘world’s most-traveled,'” Southwell said.
“Please note that we’re no longer using the term ‘the busiest airport.'”