World’s Busiest Airports – 2003 to 2013

While waiting for a plane at what I knew to be the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, I decided to look at some statistics. And I noticed that there was a massive change from 2003, ten years ago, to 2013, the most recent full year of statistics. My data is from Wikipedia.

In 2003, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson had 79 million passengers. That grew to 94 million passengers in 10 years. For both, Atlanta was the world’s busiest airport.

In 2003, five of the world’s busiest airports were in the United States, namely Atlanta,  Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and Denver. The only Asian airport on the list was Tokyo.

Busiest Airports 2003
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In 2013, there is a significant change: Atlanta is still in the number one slot. However, Beijing, which was not even in the top 30 ten years ago, is now in slot number two, with 83 million passengers.

I predict that in less than ten years, Beijing will pull ahead of Atlanta.

There are only four U.S. airports in the list of the top ten. Surprisingly, Dubai has inched up to number seven in 2013, and in 2014 (not shown here, since it’s only a partial year) Dubai has already pulled ahead to number three, past Heathrow. Along with four U.S. airports, there are now four Asian airports in the list of the top ten.

Busiest Airports 2013
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These are strange statistics, since airport passenger traffic really does not mean much. So what, you might say.

To me, it is a significant indicator of economic activity. Clearly, a lot of people travel in and out of China, and I am sure even more people commute through Beijing’s airline hub every day. And what about Dubai. Surely there can’t be enough worthwhile destinations in Dubai itself to warrant this amount of traffic. However, being centrally located, Asian traffic is choosing Dubai for a stopover in many directions. Again, economic activity in Asia shows its traces.

The world, it is a-changin’.

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