In determining the list of 20 largest airports in the world in 2017, we used a statistic called total aviation movement. It represents landings and takeoffs aircraft performed on the airport in question. This is, in our view, the number that best represents the ability of the airport to handle huge numbers of airplanes that use it daily and is perhaps the most important indicator if how busy the airport really is. The other two statistics we also provided are the number of passengers and the amount of cargo each airport handled.
2016 has been very good to the commercial aviation industry, especially the US carriers. Low oil prices combined with a constant demand has been driving profits sky high. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has predicted a total profit in the sector to be $35.6 billion and 2017 promises to be equally profitable for airline companies. IATA predicts that the profit will be smaller, at $29.8 billion, due to the rising oil prices, but still exceptional since that will be the third year in a row that airlines have achieved a higher return on the investment than the cost of capital, 7.9 to 6.9 percent. In fact, these will be the only three years in the industry’s history that such feat has been achieved.
The statistics reveal some interesting trends in the aviation industry. For instance, almost all airports on our list of largest airports in the world in 2017 have increased the number of passengers, yet about half of them have declining numbers of total aircraft movement. Translated in layman’s terms, it means that fewer aircraft are transporting more passengers. The trend of using bigger airframes doesn’t apply everywhere, though. Some of the airports on our list are ranked rather low in terms of passenger traffic and cargo traffic both, yet managed to reach a high place on our list due to a larger number of total aircraft movement. These are mainly the airports that cater to destinations that don’t have large airfields or volume of passenger big enough to justify airlines using their premium airplanes, and instead warrant smaller ones, with less capacity. But with plenty of such destinations, the numbers of total aircraft movement keep adding up, propelling airports to a higher ranking.
As a source for our list, we used data from Airports Council International, which usually publishes their findings in September for the previous year. The only available data right now, which is the one we used, is from 2015, but there shouldn’t be major shifts on the list of the largest airports in the world in 2017, barring some unforeseen actions. The list of the Biggest Airports in the World in 2014 is also similar to this one. One thing that may make a dent in US airports’ bottom line is President Trump’s travel ban, which is also causing a huge turmoil on several international airports around the country.
The composition of these 20 largest airports in the world is pretty much what you would expect. 12 of them are in North America, five in Europe, and three in Asia. In terms of countries, 11 are in the United States, two in China, and Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Turkey, and Netherlands have one each. Let’s see how they are ranked: