Frequent flyers and travel enthusiasts have likely stepped foot in one of the 11 biggest airports in the world at least once. And that’s because these airports, partly due to their sheer size, have become major transport hubs between countries and even continents. Each of these 11 airports service about 10 million passengers per year, with one particular airport in China (the Beijing Capital International Airport) serving 94 million passengers annually.
However, we should note that the size of the airport is not necessarily indicative of the amount of traffic it receives. The busiest airport in the world, the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, caters to 104 million passengers each year, despite its relatively small size of 1,900 hectares. By comparison, the King Fahd International Airport welcomed about 10 million passengers in 2015, despite having ample room for millions more, as the Saudi Arabia-based airport boasts a total built-up area of 76,100 hectares. Of course, it is worth mentioning that the location of the airports also figures in to the traffic that each receives. For instance, it’s reasonable to assume that the U.S attracts more air traffic than Saudi Arabia, hence explaining the disparity in passenger numbers in relation to the land mass of the aforementioned airports.
While all of the airports listed in this article are owned by state institutions, like nations, states (in the case of the U.S), and certain cities, there are substantial business interests involved in these airports. In fact, some publicly traded companies actually own airports in Mexico. Of note, Grupo Aeroportuario dl Srst SAB CV (ADR) (NYSE:ASR), Grupo Aeroportr dl Pcfco SAB de CV (ADR) (NYSE:PAC), and Grupo Aeroportuario del Centro Nort (ADR) (NASDAQ:OMAB) own and operate a handful of airports in Mexico, each taking up a specific region in the country. However, that arrangement is more likely in developing countries and less likely in nations that have significant resources to build their own airports without needing corporate investment.
Nevertheless, airports engage in a huge amount of business deals with corporate entities, which is most apparent with the major airlines that essentially use some of these airports as their own main hubs. International airports around the world frequently have contract deals with providers of various materials and services needed for operations. For instance, Macquarie Infrastructure Corp (NYSE:MIC) has an aviation unit that provides fuel, terminal, aircraft hangaring, and other services primarily to owners and operators of general aviation aircraft at 69 airports in the U.S.
This list of the 11 biggest airports in the world serves as an update to a previous list Insider Monkey did about the 10 biggest airports in the world, but this time, we added an 11th entry, updated the passenger numbers, and included a more descriptive blurb for each airport.
11. Washington-Dulles International Airport (Airport code: IAD)
The international airport closest to the capital of the U.S served about 22 million passengers in 2016 through its 2,255-hectare facility.
10. Beijing Capital International Airport (Airport code: PEK)
The main airport for China’s capital, the 2,330-hectare airport may be smaller than nine other airports, but it outperforms the others in terms of passengers served, at 94.3 million passengers in 2016.
9. Cairo International Airport (Airport code: CAI)
The biggest airport in Africa, and the continent’s second-busiest, is a 2,550-hectare complex that hosted 14.7 million passengers in 2012 (latest data available).
8. Chicago O’Hare International Airport (Airport code: ORD)
One of the world’s busiest airports is located in the so-called Second City, where the 2,610-hectare airport served almost 78 million passengers last year.
7. Suvarnabhumi Airport, a.k.a. (New) Bangkok International Airport (Airport code: BKK)
One of the two airports serving Thailand’s capital city, the largest airport in Southeast Asia occupies an area of 2,980 hectares and catered to 55.9 million passengers in 2016.
The next six entries on this list of the 11 biggest airports in the world have land areas of at least 3,000 hectares each.
6. Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (Airport code: MAD)
Named after the first president of Spain’s post-Franco era, the main airport of Madrid served 50.4 million passengers last year through its 3,050-hectare complex.
5. Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (Airport code: IAD)
Paris’ international airport was named after the leader of the French anti-Nazi resistance during World War II. The 3,110-hectare airport recorded 65.9 million passengers in 2016.
4. Shanghai Pudong International Airport (Airport code: PVG)
The largest airport in China (and second-largest in Asia) serves the country’s largest city. The 3,350-hectare airport served 66 million passengers last year.
3. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (Airport code: DFW)
The second-largest airport in the U.S, with a land area of 7,800 hectares, catered to some 65.7 million passengers in 2016.
2. Denver International Airport (Airport code: DEN)
The 13,726-hectare airport located in the Mile High City is the largest in the U.S. It served 58.4 million passengers last year.
1. King Fahd International Airport (Airport code: IAD)
The largest airport in the world is located in Saudi Arabia, and occupies 78,000 hectares of land space, bigger than neighboring country Bahrain. However, the huge airport catered to only 9.6 million passengers in 2015.
With that, we have reached the conclusion of our list of the 11 biggest airports in the world. Have you been through any of these airports? Share your thoughts and experiences with our readers in the comments.