There are over 15,000 airports in the world. In the US alone, there are 19,622 airports, including over 5,000 public airports.
Some are (ridiculously) small, but others are out of this world.
In fact, the US boasts some of the world's biggest airports.
However, the biggest airports are not necessarily the busiest ones. That’s why we’ve made a distinction between:
- The busiest airports: the biggest airports by passenger traffic
- The biggest airports: the largest airports in size
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The Busiest Airports in the US
The busiest airports are those with the highest amount of passenger traffic (number of passengers) over a year.
What is the busiest airport in the United States?
Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the busiest airport in the US by passenger traffic. About 104 million passengers travel through the busiest US airport, about 20 million more than for the second busiest airport in the US.
Top 15 busiest US airports
1. Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) - 103.9 Million Passengers
The chief reason why ATL is the busiest airport in the US is its favorable geographic location which makes it perfect as a connection hub. It deserves 150 domestic and 70 international destinations.
Not only that, it’s also a hub for one of the largest airlines in North America: Delta Airlines passengers account for a high proportion of passenger traffic in Atlanta Airport.
You might expect chaos to reign there, considering the sheer amount of people striding across the halls, especially since it isn’t one of the largest airports in the US. And yet, you’d be wrong to assume that: on the contrary, Hartsfield–Jackson has been elected the most efficient airport in the world… 19 years in a row!
2. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) - 84.5 Million Passengers
LAX is the international airport acting as the gateway to Los Angeles, California. Its new terminal is dedicated to travellers from Asia and the Pacific.
Second biggest airport by passenger traffic, it’s also one of the largest airports of the US West Coast, alongside San Francisco International Airport.
Adding to the prestige of LAX is the fact that it is the only US airport designated as a hub by four US legacy airlines (Alaska, American, Delta, and United).
3. O’Hare International Airport (ORD) - 79.8 Million Passengers
Chicago O’Hare held the #1 spot of busiest US airports by number of passengers from 1963 to 1998. It was the first major airport planned during the post-WWII era.
Chicago’s international airport serves close to 230 destinations spread over all continents and acts as a hub for both American Airlines and United Airlines. Passenger traffic registered in ORD has kept rising since the early 2010s.
4. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) - 75 Million Passengers
American Airlines’ largest hub is a monster that accommodated about 75 million air passengers in 2019 but also ranks #2 of the largest US airports.
Get that: Dallas Airport is so big that it has its own ZIP code (75261) and postal service designation.
Texas’ busiest airport serves 260 destinations: 193 domestic airports and 67 destinations abroad.
DFW is largely recognized as a technological pioneer among US airports, with a team dedicated to bringing new passenger-friendly innovations to the airport facilities.
5. Denver International Airport (DEN) - 61 Million Passengers
Another giant, Denver Airport is perhaps more famous for being the largest US airport (see ranking below) and for having the longest public use runway in North America. Runway 16R/34L is also the seventh longest in the world, boasting 16,000 feet (4.88 km).
Den serves 215 destinations, including 189 US destinations, making it the airport with the second-largest domestic network.
6. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) - 61 Million Passengers
Located in Queens, New York, JFK is the busiest international air passenger gateway into North America.
It is used as a hub by American Airlines and Delta only, but over 90 airlines operate their flights from there.
But it’s not only remarkable for being a center for the international flight network: JFK airport also has an Ark dedicated to handling animals of all sorts.
7. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) - 56 Million Passengers
If it weren’t for LAX, San Francisco’s airport would be the busiest of California. But SFO can only claim the title of busiest airport in the Bay Area.
However, it is larger in size than LAX.
A major gateway to both Europe and Asia, it is also a major hub for United Airlines.
8. McCarran International Airport (LAS) - 51 Million Passengers
Located in Paradise - Nevada, not Heaven, LAS is more popularly known as Las Vegas Airport.
Most passengers take domestic flights to and from Los Angeles, the airport’s most popular route.
9. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) - 50 Million Passengers
The busiest airport in the Seattle metropolitan area, SEA is Alaska Airlines’s main hub. It’s one of the fastest-growing airports in terms of passenger traffic. Delta has increased its presence there for its routes to Asia.
It’s also a gateway to North America, Europe, the Middle-East, and Asia.
10. Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) - 46 Million Passengers
Based in North Carolina, Charlotte Airport is American Airlines’ second-largest hub.
Being a civil-military airport, it is primarily known for being home to Charlotte Air National Guard BAse.
- Orlando International Airport (MCO) - 45 Million Passengers
- Miami International Airport (MIA) - 44 Million Passengers
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) - 44 Million Passengers
- Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) - 43 Million Passengers
- George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) - 41 Million Passengers
The Biggest Airports in the US
The biggest airports are the largest airports in terms of size.
What is the biggest airport in the United States?
Denver International Airport is the largest US airport by size, covering a surface of 137.26 km² (33,917 acres). It is the third biggest airport in the world, behind Beijing Daxing International Airport (PKX) and King Fahd International Airport (DMM).
Top 10 biggest US airports
- Denver International Airport: 137.26 km² (33,917 acres)
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport: 69.63 km² (17,050 acres)
- Washington Dulles International Airport: 52.6 km2 (13,000 acres)
- Orlando International Airport: 47 km² (11,609 acres)
- George Bush Intercontinental: 40.5 km2 (10,000 acres)
- Salt Lake City International Airport: 31.1 km² (7,700 acres)
- O'Hare International Airport: 30.9 km² (7,627 acres)
- San Francisco International Airport: 21.07 km² (5,207 acres)
- John F. Kennedy International Airport: 21 km² (5,200 acres)
- Detroit Metropolitan Airport: 19.6 km² (4,850 acres)
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(You might also be curious to know which are the busiest airports in Europe...)