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Busiest Airports in the US

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Large distances and diverse terrain relief make the aircraft a popular means of transportation within the United States. The country is also highly popular among tourists worldwide. Hence a large number of airports, fit for international and domestic travel. Many hubs are congested. The congestion is defined by its passenger traffic. The latter stands for the number of people who deplaned or enplaned at the air hub within a certain period. The FAA statistics are based on the period of 1 calendar year. Passenger traffic includes international (travelers coming from or leaving abroad) and domestic (fly within the country) passengers. Airports can be divided into two categories:

  • A number of enplaning travelers within a year. The hub visited by most passengers during the year is called the busiest airport in the US.
  • A territory. The hub covering the largest square mileage is considered to be the biggest airport in the US.

Busiest Airports in the U.S.

The USA-based hubs usually feature active passenger traffic. Ten of the 50 world’s busiest airports belong to the U.S. They aren’t always the top largest ones by area. The busiest airports in the US serve over 10 M air travelers annually and have international or regional status. They are called «Large hubs» and marked with the «L» letter in the FAA classification. Any hub that serves over 1% of all air passengers traveling to/from/within the U.S. annually belongs to «L» airports.

The ranking also has a subcategory of the busiest airports in the United States. The airports that handle from 0.25% to 1% of air travelers’ total flow are marked by the «M» letter. This stands for «Medium hub».

Top 5 Busiest U.S. Airports

  • 1. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL)

    If you ever put wages on what is the busiest airport in the US, you know that the Atlanta hub has been the one since 1998. It is also a consistent member of the list of the world’s top ten busiest airports. ATL featured a steady passenger number increase until the end of 2019, when it served the record 110 M travelers (the most in the world). After the Covid-19 outbreak, the passenger flow of ATL dropped by 62%; the 2020 figure was 42 M travelers. The share of the domestic passengers increased in 2020, making 92% of the total traveler’s flow (it was 88% in 2019). The proportion of international and domestic airlines at ATL, on the other hand, is 50/50: there are currently nine national and regional airlines and nine international carriers.

  • 2. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

    With 39 M passengers arriving and departing from DFW in 2020, it ranks second among the busiest US airports. The main Texas hub also boasts the 4th place in the global airport ranking. The majority of passengers (91%) boarded domestic flights. The number was twice higher in 2019; the total travelers’ flow was estimated at 75 M passengers. The share of domestic air travelers increased as well (it made 88% in 2019). However, only eight of the 22 airlines that fly to and from DFW are based in the States.

  • 3. Denver International Airport (DEN)

    This busy Colorado hub served 33 M air travelers in 2020, which is a 53% decrease in comparison with the previous year. In 2019, DEN saw 69 M visitors who enplaned or deplaned there and took 5th place in the U.S. airport ranking. The number of travelers taking domestic flights made 32 M and made 97% of the overall airport passenger traffic. In 2019, the share of the international passengers in DEN was 5%. The passengers use the services of 25 air carriers, out of which 14 serve the flights within the U.S. Since 2000, DEN has been a constant member of the top 20 busiest airports in the world.

  • 4. Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

    Until 1998, ORD had been the leader of the busiest airports in the US. In 1998, the title was given to ATL. However, ORD remained a popular landing and departure point for millions of people all over the world. It took 2nd place among the busiest airports for several years. The global rating dropped the most in 2020 when it was ranked 13th. The 2019 year set a record for the number of passengers (84 M) that used the airport as their travel point. In 2020, the number fell to 30 M. The share of domestic passengers made 88%, while in 2019, it was 83%. The airport is also the busiest by the number of airlines represented. There are 49 air carriers, 13 of which serve domestic flights.

  • 5. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

    Holding the position of the 3rd world’s busiest airport in 2019, LAX considerably dropped in 2020—to 15th place. The busiest California airport was also ranked second busiest in the United States for several years in a row until 2020 and has welcomed 88 M people in 2019. Then, 30% of the passenger traffic was international travelers. In 2020, this number was reduced to 22%, while the total number of passengers going onboard or deplaning an aircraft in LAX was 28 M. Los Angeles airport is also the 2nd busiest in the United States in terms of airlines’ number. 70 air carriers operate there, with 16 of them from the U.S.

Biggest Airports in the US

When it comes to airports, the terms «biggest» and «busiest» are frequently used interchangeably. Anyway, the term «big» denotes that the airport has a large area for its runways and facilities. It would seem logical to assume that the busiest airports are also the busiest. But it’s really not.

The large-size airports in the U.S. do handle a lot of cargo and serve many passengers. Five of them are listed among the top 10 world’s biggest airports. At the same time, their passenger numbers may be lower than those of smaller airports. The reasons might be the location (the tourist attraction rating and connectivity with other cities), the level of infrastructure development, the cost of flights, and so on. Wonder what is the biggest airport in the US? Here are our top 5.

Top 5 Biggest US Airports

  • 1. Denver International Airport (DEN)

    Having 52.4 square miles of territory, Denver International is the biggest airport in the US and takes 2nd position globally. It has a single large terminal (the Jeppesen Terminal), which is 1.5 million square feet in size. The terminal has six levels, four of which are used for parking and two upper levels that house various facilities. It’s connected with three concourses (A, B, and C) that, in total, operate 146 gates. The airport provides over 35,000 jobs and is one of the largest employers in Colorado state. DEN has the longest runway in the United States, which is 16,000 ft long and can accommodate the Airbus A380. The other five runways are also big, having 12,000 ft each. The airport provides constant connection with 188 destinations, including 25 international ones. Frontier Airlines uses DEN as its primary hub. It’s also a hub for United Airlines domestic and international operations.

  • 2. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

    With a total area of 27 square miles, the Texas hub ranks second among the largest airports in the US and third among the world’s big-sized airports. The airport consists of 5 terminals that together have 164 gates. Three terminals (A, B, and C) are used exclusively by single airlines. The D terminal is used for international flights, and the E terminal is used by the U.S. airlines and AirCanada carrier. DFW is a hub for American Airlines, the cargo-oriented UPS Airlines, and Ameriflight. It has seven runways, four of which are 13,400 ft long, two runways are 9,000 ft and 9,300 ft long, and the shortest one is 8,500 ft. The airport has 262 direct destinations, 191 of which are located within the U.S.

  • 3. Orlando International Airport (MCO)

    23 square miles of land are covered by MCO runways and facilities. Such a vast territory lets the Florida largest airport serve for the Class VI aircraft (up to 262 ft long) and be the 3rd airport in the US by territory. In the worldwide rating, MCO takes 4th position. The airport features four runways, two being 12,000 ft, one having 10,000 ft, and another one—9,000 ft length. The facilities include a single large 3-level terminal connected to four airsides (1, 2, 3, and 4). The passengers board or deplane the aircraft through 129 gates. MCO has direct flights to and from 23 international and 89 domestic destinations. It’s a hub for Silver Airways and also serves as a focus city for JetBlue Airways, Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and Southwest Airlines.

  • 4. Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)

    Spread on 20 square miles, IAD is one of the biggest airports in the US and the fifth-largest in the world. The three-level terminal has 1.1 M sq. ft and is connected by five concourses. In total, there are 113 gates through which passengers can arrive and depart to any of 155 destinations (including 52 international ones). The airport serves as a major hub for United Airlines and its affiliates. Currently, the IAD has four runways, two of which are 11,500 ft, one is 10,500 ft, and one is 9,400 ft long. The construction of the 5th runway is planned.

  • 5. George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

    Another Texas airport listed among the largest airports in the US, IAH covers an area of approximately 15.5 square miles. It is ranked seventh in the world by size. The former Houston airport features five independent terminals (A, B, C, D, and E) connected by subway and skyway transportation. Terminal B is operated by United Airlines solely, and the airport serves as a hub for this airline. In total, there are 130 gates. Direct flights connect the airport with domestic (120) and international (70) destinations. The aircraft land and take off on five runways—12,000 ft, 10,000 ft (2 runways), 9,400 ft, and 9,000 ft.

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