Have you ever wonder where the biggest airports in the world are? Well, in order to satisfy your curiosity we have compiled a list of the largest airports worldwide. Since Wilbur and Orville Wright invented and built the first successful airplane at the beginning of the twentieth century, the relationship between humankind and the utopian desire of flying has come a long way. The earliest aircraft used to take off and land in grassy fields that were intended as landing sites, but even after these locations where improved and turned into dirt-only fields, airports weren’t even in mind.
After concrete surfaces were implemented on the landing sites, aircraft were able to function in any conditions: dry or rainy, at nighttime or daytime. Interestingly enough, the title of the world’s oldest airport is generally awarded to the College Park Airport, Maryland, an airfield established by Wilbur Wright in 1909, which is considered as the oldest continually operating airport. Unfortunately, much of aviation’s history after that early period was closely related to war: World War I and II to be more precise.
From a luxurious rarity to weapons, from a convenient means of transportation to a necessity, aircraft are now something we take for granted, something that a century ago was taking its first steps; or should I say first flights? The fact is that flying has become a business, and a very big one. Airplanes, airlines and airports are essential to travel, commerce and industry; it is not only the pleasure of flying that aircraft were intended for. Though flying has turned into an aspect of everyday life and is mostly affordable for a big part of the world’s population, it is still rather expensive to get to some places. If you don’t believe me just take a look at our list on The 10 Most Expensive Countries to Fly To and see for yourself.
In compiling our current list, we chose to use the measure that best represents the size of an airport: its surface area. But this is not the only way of ranking airports by size. In fact, a common way of listing these facilities is to take into account passenger traffic and thus determine how busy that airport is. The total passengers are calculated by adding the passengers enplaned, the passengers deplaned and the direct-transit passengers. Though we did not rank airports by this means, we did include the figures for total passengers in the countdown just to illustrate the relatioship between area and traffic.
You will see that busyness and size do not always correlate, and biggest airports in the world aren’t necessarily the busiest. For example, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta has earned the title of busiest airport every year since 2000 thanks to the massive flow of connecting traffic it handles, yet it doesn’t even make it in the size list. Other busy airports that are not so big are Heathrow in London, Frankfurt Airport in Germany and the Dubai International Airport. We also didn’t include the “world’s biggest airport” that’s currently being built in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul’s third airport will actually have the world’s largest terminal under one roof and is currently 85% completed.
Are you curious about the biggest airports in the world? Let’s take a look at the countdown and find where they are.
10. Beijing Capital International Airport
Area: 2330 ha (hectares)
Location: Chaoyang, Beijing, China
Total Passengers: 48,901,898
9. Cairo International Airport
Area: 2550 ha
Location: Cairo, Egypt
Total Passengers: 14,711,500
8. O’Hare International Airport
Area: 2610 ha
Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States of America
Total Passengers: 39,995,410
7. Don Mueang International Airport
Area: 2980 ha
Location: Khet Don Mueang, Bankok, Thailand
Total Passengers: 16,479,227
6. Madrid Barajas Airport
Area: 3050 ha
Location: Madrid, Spain
Total Passengers: 23,581,244
5. Paris – Charles de Gaulle
Area: 3100 ha
Location: Roissy-en-France, Île-de-France, France
Total Passengers: 37,074,527
4. Shanghai Pudong International Airport
Area: 3350 ha
Location: Pudong, Shanghai, China
Total Passengers: 29,184,272
3. King Fahd International Airport
Area: 3410 ha
Location: Dammam, Saudi Arabia
Total Passengers: 7,000,000
2. Denver International Airport
Area: 4200 ha
Location: Denver, Colorado, United States of America
Total Passengers: 31,004,575
1. Dallas – Fort Worth International Airport
Area: 4360 ha
Location: Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, United States of America
Total Passengers: 37,175,108
Update: This article was originally published in October 2014 and updated on May 4th, 2018.