These Were the 10 Busiest Airports in the World in 2021

They are primarily airports based in the United States.

Ringo Chiu/Shutterstock
Editor's Note:We know COVID-19 is continuing to impact your travel plans. Should you travel now, be sure to familiarize yourself with the CDC's latest guidance on domestic and international travel as well as local requirements, protocols, and restrictions for both your destination upon your arrival and your home city upon your return. Be safe out there.

Even while the pandemic dramatically reduced the number of travelers passing through airports, it didn’t mean traveling stopped completely. In 2021, travel was higher than 2020, especially during the summer months. And even with COVID-related travel issues, some airports maintained their status as travel hubs.

Airport Council International (ACI) compiled data from airports worldwide to determine which were the busiest. Unsurprisingly, the Atlanta International Airport came in as the world’s busiest. The Delta hub had 75,704,760 passengers move through its terminals in 2021, which was 10 million more passengers than the next airport on the list. Here’s the complete breakdown:

  1. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) - 75,704,760
  2. Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW) - 62,465,756
  3. Denver Denver International Airport (DIA) - 58,828,552
  4. Chicago-O’Hare International Airport (ORD) - 54,020,399
  5. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) - 48,007,284
  6. Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) - 43,302,230
  7. Orlando International Airport (MCO) - 40,351,068
  8. Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN) - 40,259,401
  9. Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport (CTU) - 40,117,496
  10. Las Vegas Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) - 39,754,366

According to ACI, the traffic at these airports accounted for 10% of global traffic for the year. In total, about 4.5 billion people traveled in 2021, a 25% increase from 2020. Of all the growth, the most significant change was at the Orlando International Airport. Traffic at MCO jumped by nearly 87% between 2020 and 2021. Dallas/ Ft. Worth also jumped up from the fourth place on the list to the second in 2020 and the 10th place in 2019.

Four of the airports currently on the list were in the top 10 busiest airports in 2019. The rest ranked lower and have moved into top spots since the pandemic began. These changes could indicate that the interests of travelers are shifting, or maybe it has something to do with the increased number of cancellations taking place, which are projected to continue into the summer. Regardless, be ready to adapt as needed when it comes to air travel. 

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Opheli Garcia Lawler is a staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.