World’s busiest airports for pax now in China

Seven of the top 10 airports for passenger traffic are in China with three in the US. Domestic air travel is beginning a modest rebound while international air travel remains depressed because of on-going travel restrictions

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Guangzhou Bai Yun International Airport in China recorded the most passenger traffic in 2020.

Use this oneAirports Council International (ACI) World has published its preliminary world airport traffic rankings – covering passenger traffic, cargo volumes, and aircraft movements for 2020 – showing the dramatic impact of COVID-19 on what are ordinarily the world’s busiest airports. Global passenger traffic at the world’s top 10 busiest airports decreased by -45.7 percent in 2020. Overall, passenger traffic at the world’s airports decreased by -64.6 percent which shows that the impact of the pandemic and the early stages of recovery in air travel has not been uniform around the world. According to the preliminary data published, Guangzhou Bai Yun International Airport in China recorded the most passenger traffic in 2020, with Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in the United States just behind.

Seven of the top 10 airports for passenger traffic are in China with three in the United States. In most cases, domestic air travel is beginning a modest rebound while international air travel remains depressed because of on-going travel restrictions. For example, Hongqiao International Airport in China has moved from 46th position in 2019 to the 9th in 2020, illustrating the uneven nature of the impact of, and recovery from, the pandemic across the world.

ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira.

“The impact of the COVID-19 on global passenger traffic pandemic brought aviation to a virtual standstill in 2020 and we continue to face an existential threat,” ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said. “The data published today reveals the challenge airports continue to face and it remains imperative that the industry is supported through direct support and sensible policy decisions from governments to ensure that aviation can endure, rebuild connectivity, and fuel a global economic recovery. The findings show that the impact remains uneven with different regions experiencing different challenges and requiring different policy decisions and support from governments to lay the foundation for recovery. With some positive signs of recovery, especially in countries with high rates of vaccination, a sustained global recovery will only be realized with an escalation of vaccination campaigns, the continued development of digital health passes, and coordinated and cohesive policy support from governments.”

Border closures and quarantines mean very passengers are coming to Changi Airport in Singapore. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

Air cargo was less impacted by COVID 19, with volumes decreasing by only -8.9 percent, to an estimated 109 million metric tonnes in 2020, equivalent to 2016 levels (110 million metric tonnes). Air cargo volumes in the top 10 airports grew by +3 percent in 2020. These airports represent around 28 percent (30.6 million metric tonnes) of the global volumes in 2020. The gain can be attributed to the increase in demand for online consumer goods and pharmaceutical products and personal protective equipment. With a +6.7 percent increase, Memphis International Airport surpassed Hong Kong International Airport.

ACI World estimates that there were 58 million global aircraft movements in 2020, representing a drop of -43 percent from 2019. The top 10 airports represent 7 percent of global traffic (4.2 million movements) and experienced a drop of -34.3 percent compared to 2019. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport surpassed Chicago O’Hare International Airport, after leading in 2019 and 2018.

Passengers in protective overall and masks at Suvarnabhumi Airport going to check-in for repatriation flights and waving good bye during COVID-19 outbreak. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

For airports, revenues are tightly correlated to traffic levels but, like many other capital-intensive businesses, a large proportion of airport costs remain largely fixed and do not fall at the same level as traffic throughput and revenues during the crisis. Even with reduced operations, the closure of terminals and staff layoffs, this imbalance remains.

“There is no denying the current economic realities – and the financial shortfall they create – that airports face,” de Oliveira said. “Airports are economic generators, bringing socio-economic benefits and jobs to the communities they serve, and governments need to provide the necessary financial alleviation and assistance to suit local circumstances. Airport operators also continue to work closely with their airline partners and other stakeholders balancing the current market realities with the cost of providing the infrastructure as they navigate the crisis together.”

PASSENGERS*
2020 2019 AIRPORT 2020 2019 Percent change
1 11 GUANGZHOU, CN (CAN) 43 767 558 73 394 810 -40.4
2 1 ATLANTA GA, US (ATL) 42 918 685 110 531 300 -61.2
3 24 CHENGDU, CN (CTU) 40 741 509 55 858 552 -27.1
4 10 DALLAS/FORT WORTH TX, US (DFW) 39 364 990 75 066 956 -47.6
5 26 SHENZHEN, CN (SZX) 37 916 054 52 931 925 -28.4
6 2 BEIJING, CN (PEK) 34 513 827 100 013 642 -65.5
7 16 DENVER CO, US (DEN) 33 741 129 69 015 703 -51.1
8 37 KUNMING, CN (KMG) 32 990 805 48 076 238 -31.4
9 46 SHANGHAI, CN (SHA) 31 165 641 45 637 882 -31.7
10 40 XI’AN, CN (XIY) 31 073 924 47 220 745 -34.2
  • Total passengers enplaned and deplaned, passengers in transit counted once
INTL PASSENGERS*
2020 2019 AIRPORT 2020 2019 Percent change
1 1 DUBAI, AE (DXB) 25 831 363 86 328 896 -70.1
2 3 AMSTERDAM, NL (AMS) 20 880 990 71 679 691 -70.9
3 2 LONDON, GB (LHR) 20 650 473 76 043 973 -72.8
4 6 PARIS, FR (CDG) 19 057 856 69 841 276 -72.7
5 8 FRANKFURT, DE (FRA) 16 837 104 63 067 739 -73.3
6 14 ISTANBUL, TR (IST) 15 945 340 39 580 735 -59.7
7 15 DOHA, QA (DOH) 12 522 288 38 786 566 -67.7
8 5 INCHEON, KR (ICN) 11 955 756 70 578 050 -83.1
9 7 SINGAPORE, SG (SIN) 11 635 000 67 601 000 -82.8
10 11 MADRID, ES (MAD) 11 052 157 44 919 124 -75.4
  • International passengers enplaned and deplaned
CARGO (METRIC TONNES)*
2020 2019 AIRPORT 2020 2019 Percent change
1 2 MEMPHIS TN, US (MEM) 4 613 431 4 322 740 6.7
2 1 HONG KONG SAR, HK (HKG) 4 468 089 4 809 485 -7.1
3 3 SHANGHAI, CN (PVG) 3 686 627 3 634 230 1.4
4 6 ANCHORAGE AK, US (ANC) 3 157 682 2 745 348 15.0
5 4 LOUISVILLE KY, US (SDF) 2 917 243 2 790 109 4.6
6 5 INCHEON, KR (ICN) 2 822 370 2 764 369 2.1
7 9 CHINESE TAIPEI (TPE) 2 342 714 2 182 342 7.4
8 13 LOS ANGELES CA, US (LAX) 2 229 476 2 092 003 6.6
9 8 DOHA, QA (DOH) 2 175 292 2 215 804 -1.8
10 12 MIAMI FL, US (MIA) 2 137 699 2 092 472 2.2
  • Cargo: loaded and unloaded freight and mail in metric tonnes
INTL FREIGHT (METRIC TONNES)*
2020 2019 AIRPORT 2020 2019 Percent change
1 1 HONG KONG SAR, HK (HKG) 4 420 312 4 703 589 -6.0
2 2 SHANGHAI, CN (PVG) 2 952 602 2 825 009 4.5
3 3 INCHEON, KR (ICN) 2 759 467 2 664 005 3.6
4 6 CHINESE TAIPEI (TPE) 2 323 412 2 165 216 7.3
5 10 ANCHORAGE AK, US (ANC) 2 221 804 1 942 554 14.4
6 5 DOHA, QA (DOH) 2 145 076 2 173 371 -1.3
7 7 TOKYO, JP (NRT) 1 958 505 2 039 905 -4.0
8 4 DUBAI, AE (DXB) 1 932 022 2 514 918 -23.2
9 9 FRANKFURT, DE (FRA) 1 818 748 1 961 460 -7.3
10 12 MIAMI FL, US (MIA) 1 730 859 1 706 064 1.5
  • International freight loaded and unloaded in metric tonnes
AIRCRAFT MOVEMENTS*
2020 2019 AIRPORT 2020 2019 Percent change
1 2 ATLANTA GA, US (ATL)   548 016   904 301 -39.4
2 1 CHICAGO IL, US (ORD)   538 211   919 704 -41.5
3 3 DALLAS/FORT WORTH TX, US (DFW)   514 702   720 007 -28.5
4 5 DENVER CO, US (DEN)   436 971   631 955 -30.9
5 20 PHOENIX AZ, US (DVT)   402 444   456 790 -11.9
6 7 CHARLOTTE NC, US (CLT)   397 983   578 263 -31.2
7 4 LOS ANGELES CA, US (LAX)   379 364   691 257 -45.1
8 12 GUANGZHOU, CN (CAN)   373 421   491 249 -24.0
9 11 SHANGHAI, CN (PVG)   325 678   511 846 -36.4
10 8 LAS VEGAS NV, US (LAS)   323 422   552 962 -41.5
  • Movements: landings and takeoffs

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