US airport regains title of world’s busiest

(CNN) — Step aside, Guangzhou. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia is once again the busiest airport in the world.

Atlanta Airport in the United States jumped from No. 1 to No. 2 in passenger volume in 2020 by Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in China, breaking the airport’s 22-year streak. ‘Atlanta at No. 1.

But in the 2021 ranking published Monday by the trade association Airports Council International, Atlanta airport returned to the top of the list, a sign of recovery after the dizzying drop in air traffic in 2020 when the pandemic took hold.

In 2021, Atlanta Airport handled 75.7 million passengers. This figure is 76% higher than in 2020, but still almost 32% lower than the pre-pandemic figures for 2019.

Guangzhou Airport fell to 8th place in 2021, with 40.3 million passengers. Another airport in China, Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, ranks ninth on the 2021 list; it was at No. 3 in 2020.

US airports led the passenger traffic rankings in 2021, with eight of the top 10 global airlines based in the US.

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas was the second busiest in 2021, with approximately 62.5 million passengers, and Denver International Airport, Colorado was the third busiest, with 58.8 million passengers .

Missing show dog at Atlanta airport 1:18

Rounding out the top five are Chicago’s O’Hare and Los Angeles International Airports.

The list shows “an encouraging trend of recovery,” ACI World CEO Luis Felipe de Oliveira said in a statement.

“While we are cautious that the recovery could face multiple obstacles, the momentum created by countries’ reopening plans could generate an increase in travel in the second half of 2022,” said de Oliveira.

In 2021, there were around 4.5 billion passengers worldwide, according to ACI. This figure represents an increase of almost 25% compared to 2020, but a decrease of more than 50% compared to 2019.

Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou, China overtook Atlanta International Airport in 2020 as the busiest in the world. In 2021, Guangzhou Airport fell to 8th place. (Credit: Tian Jianchuan/Xinhua/ZUMA Press)

Airports in the United States and China switch places

Given the much faster recovery of domestic travel compared to international travel, airports that were well below the list of busiest airports before the pandemic have jumped into the top 10.

Charlotte, North Carolina Airports (No. 6); Orlando, Florida (#7); and Las Vegas (#10) are new to the top 10 this year. Vacation magnets Orlando and Las Vegas ranked 31st and 30th in pre-pandemic passenger traffic in 2019.

The United States’ strong performance in the top 10 is a reversal from 2020, when Chinese airports held seven of the top 10.

China’s dominance in 2020 was due to the initial spike in China’s domestic travel. The country has not yet reopened to international visitors.

“If we look at 2020, China was one of the first to emerge from the first waves of the pandemic and, in fact, almost achieved a full recovery by the end of 2020,” said Patrick Lucas, vice president of economy at ACI. World.

But in 2021, China’s domestic traffic dropped significantly with new lockdowns, while the United States saw a big jump.

The United States has the largest domestic travel market in the world, followed by China.

Airports that regularly featured in the top 10 busiest airports in the world, such as Dubai International, London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle, have been absent during the pandemic.

“Those markets that had very high proportions of international traffic were of course affected because of all these restrictions and quarantine requirements,” Lucas said.

The important role of international traffic is also partly the reason why Beijing Capital and Shanghai Pudong International airports have dropped out of the top 10. Beijing Capital, which was once No. 2 in passenger traffic, is also seeing its traffic split by the city’s new Daxing International Airport.

Dubai International Airport, which receives much of the international traffic, dropped out of the top 10 busiest airports in 2021. However, it remained number 1 for international passengers in 2021. (Elena/Adobe Stock)

reverse restraints

ACI advocates a “risk-based approach” to easing travel restrictions, following COVID-19 data, Lucas said.

“Vaccines have really been the passport to travel, but as we can see now, many big markets are opening up and…many countries have realized that limiting travel or imposing travel restrictions really doesn’t do anything.” , did he declare.

“If anything, it creates even more harm. Which means it disrupts the socio-economic gains of air travel and tourism etc.”

As things stand, ACI expects total passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2024.

However, strong domestic markets, including the United States, are expected to recover by 2023. And markets with a high proportion of international traffic are unlikely to recover until 2025, Lucas said.

Overall, there are “different forces moving in opposite directions”.

There is very strong pent-up demand and the lifting of restrictions that have dampened travel in the face of rising travel costs and geopolitical concerns over what is happening in Eastern Europe, Lucas added.

But overall, ACI is optimistic. “We feel that consumers, passengers, are going to bite the bullet, so to speak, despite the rising cost of travel.”

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