The 10 Busiest Airports in Europe

February 5, 2024

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Busiest airports in Europe

On average, 30,000 passenger jets fly in and out of Europe every single day. This means that over the course of a year, around a billion people travel through the continent, whether for business, leisure, or to visit loved ones.

Some of Europe’s most popular destinations include France, Spain, and Italy. But what are the continent’s busiest airports? Keep reading to find out.

Based on data from the Airports Council International, Europe’s top 10 busiest airports, based on total passenger numbers for 2022, are as follows:

RankAirportCountryNumber of passengers in 2022
1Istanbul International AirportTurkey64,289,107
2Heathrow AirportUnited Kingdom61,614,508
3Charles de Gaulle AirportFrance57,474,033
4Amsterdam Airport SchipholNetherlands52,472,188
5Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas AirportSpain50,602,864
6Frankfurt am Main AirportGermany48,918,482
7Barcelona AirportSpain41,616,302
8Gatwick AirportUnited Kingdom32,848,088
9Munich AirportGermany31,642,738
10Antalya AirportTurkey31,228,377

Keep reading to discover more about each of these airports.

1. Istanbul International Airport

Turkish Airlines planes docked at Istanbul airport
Turkish Airlines airplanes preparing for their next flights
Country: Türkiye
Number of passengers (2022): 64,289,107
Percentage change from 2021: +73.8%

With more than 64.2 million passengers in 2022, Istanbul International Airport in Türkiye is Europe’s busiest airport.

Located in the Arnavutköy district, on the European side of Istanbul, it is the largest of the city’s two international airports. Istanbul International Airport opened in 2019 to replace Atatürk Airport. However, the new airport kept the International Air Transport Association (IATA) code ‘IST’.

Soon after reopening following a temporary closure during the COVID-19 pandemic, Istanbul Airport became a major hub for many airlines, including Turkey’s flag carrier, Turkish Airlines.

Passengers flying in and out of the airport can get a quick bite to eat at a fast food chain like Burger King or Starbucks or enjoy a traditional Turkish sit-down meal at Bosphorus Restaurant or Kebapçı İskender. There are plenty of options when it comes to shopping too, from luxury fashion brands, including Gucci and Prada, to souvenir shops like Turkish Delight by Hacı Bekir.

2. Heathrow Airport

Businessman sitting waiting for a flight at Heathrow Airport
Man waiting for a flight at Heathrow
Country: United Kingdom
Number of passengers (2022): 61,614,508
Percentage change from 2021: +217.7%

Europe’s second-busiest airport is London Heathrow in England, which saw just over 61.6 million passengers travel through its terminals in 2022.

Heathrow Airport started as a small airfield in West London in 1929, but after World War II, it was developed into a much bigger airport. Over the last 75 years, it has grown to become the largest of London’s six international airports. Currently, more than 80 airlines fly into and out of Heathrow, and it is the primary hub for the UK’s national airline, British Airways, as well as a base for Virgin Atlantic.

In terms of facilities for travelers, London Heathrow Airport has a wide range of dining and shopping options. Dining options include pubs like London’s Pride and Pilots Bar & Kitchen, coffee shops including Starbucks and Costa, and restaurants serving seafood and Italian cuisine. For shopping, there are designer brands like Louis Vuitton and Chanel, stores selling books and travel essentials, and everything in between.

3. Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

Air Transat plane at a terminal at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport
Air Transat plane at a terminal
Country: France
Number of passengers (2022): 57,474,033
Percentage change from 2021: +119.4%

Also known as “Roissy Airport” or “Paris CDG”, Charles de Gaulle Airport served almost 57.5 million passengers, but when its fourth terminal opens in 2024, its footfall is likely to be much higher.

Located 14 miles northeast of Paris in Roissy-en-France, it is France’s largest international airport and the capital’s principal airport.

Planning and construction of the airport began in 1966 when it was known as “Aéroport de Paris Nord”. By the time it opened in 1974, it had been renamed to honor the World War II statesman Charles de Gaulle. 

Today, Charles de Gaulle Airport is the primary hub for the country’s national airline, Air France. It is also a hub for many other major airlines, including Delta and KLM. 

Some of the airport’s most popular restaurants are Pret A Manger, Brioche Doree, and Cafe Eiffel, and tourists can enjoy duty-free shopping at designer stores like Chanel, Longchamp, and La Maison du Chocolat.

4. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

KLM plane at Amsterdam Airport Schipol
KLM plane at Amsterdam Airport
Country: Netherlands
Number of passengers (2022): 52,472,188
Percentage change from 2021: +105.8%

Netherlands’s Amsterdam Airport Schiphol first opened in 1916 as a military airbase, but at the end of World War I, it started being used by civilians before going on to lose its military role entirely. During World War II, the airport was destroyed, but after it was rebuilt, it became the Netherlands’s primary international airport. 

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is now the hub for the country’s primary carrier, KLM, as well as for Corendon Dutch Airlines, Transavia, Martinair, and TUI Fly Netherlands. It also serves as a base for budget airline EasyJet.

Passengers traveling to and from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol can get refreshments at restaurants and coffee shops like Two Tigers, Dakota’s Restaurant & Bar, and Starbucks and shop at stores like Burberry, Jamin, and Rituals.

5. Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport

Two Iberia airlines planes docked at Madrid Airport
Iberia airlines planes docked at Madrid Airport
Country: Spain
Number of passengers (2022): 50,602,864
Percentage change from 2021: +109.8%

Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport opened in 1931, was originally known as Madrid-Barajas but was renamed following the death of Spain’s former Prime Minister, Adolfo Suárez, in 2014. 

Located eight miles northeast of Madrid’s historic center, it is the city’s main international airport and provides an important link between Latin America and Europe.

Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport is the primary hub for Spain’s national airline, Iberia, which is responsible for more than 40 percent of the airport’s traffic.

People traveling through the airport can benefit from a wide range of restaurants, coffee shops, and bars, as well as all types of shops selling everything from clothing and cosmetics to alcohol and souvenirs.

6. Frankfurt am Main Airport

View of a Lufthansa plane at Frankfurt Airport
A Lufthansa airplane visible from a terminal at Frankfurt Airport
Country: Germany
Number of passengers (2022): 48,918,482
Percentage change from 2021: +97.2%

Germany’s Frankfurt am Main Airport served nearly 49 million passengers in 2022, putting it sixth on the list of the 10 busiest airports in Europe. With a capacity for about 65 million passengers per year, though, it has the potential to become the busiest airport in Europe.

The airport opened in 1936, and from 1947 to 2005, it was home to a major United States air base. Located in Frankfurt — one of the world’s leading financial centers — Frankfurt am Main Airport is an important international transport hub, and it is the base for Germany’s flag carrier, Lufthansa, as well as the AeroLogic and Condor airlines.

In addition to providing easy access to the city for those with long layovers, Frankfurt am Main offers passengers two Hilton hotels, an office complex, and a shopping mall. Plus, it’s got a wide variety of dining options.

7. Barcelona Airport

Barcelona Airport and main terminal
Barcelona Airport after it’s been raining
Country: Spain
Number of passengers (2022): 41,616,302
Percentage change from 2021: +120.6%

Also known as Barcelona-El Prat, Barcelona Airport opened in 1918 to replace the city’s original airport, which opened in 1916 but was closed due to expansion limitations. Located just over 9 miles southwest of Bareclona’s center, the airport is one of the most connected in Europe, acting as the gateway to the Mediterranean.

Barcelona Airport is a hub for the Vueling and Level airlines and a focus destination for airlines like Iberia, Air Europa, EasyJet, and Ryanair.

Again, the airport offers a good selection of restaurants, from fast food chains and tapas bars to sophisticated restaurants like PortaGaig. Shoppers also have plenty of choice, whether they want high-street stores or high-end boutiques.

8. Gatwick Airport

Aerial view of London Gatwick Airport
Aerial view of Gatwick Airport and the surrounding countryside
Country: United Kingdom
Number of passengers (2022): 32,848,088
Percentage change from 2021: +424.7%

Built about 30 miles south of Central London in the late 1920s, London Gatwick Airport opened as an aerodrome, but in 1933 it started being used for commercial travel.

Today, the airport serves as a hub for multiple airlines, from national ones like British Airways to budget ones like EasyJet.

Despite having two runways, Gatwick Airport operates as a single-runway airport, as its secondary runway is in close proximity to the main runway and can only be used when the main one isn’t. 

Some of the airport’s best food and shopping options for travelers include Starbucks, Giraffe, Pret A Manger, Wetherspoon, M&S Simply Food, WHSmith, and World Duty-Free.

9. Munich Airport

Munich Airport at night
Munich Airport at night
Country: Germany
Number of passengers (2022): 31,642,738
Percentage change from 2021: +153.2%

Munich Airport opened in 1992 to replace Munich-Riem Airport, which couldn’t handle the rising passenger numbers or increasing number of residents in the area. The new airport was built about 18 miles northeast of Munich, near the town of Freising, and was named after the former Bavarian governor Franz Josef Strauss.

The airport is now a hub for Lufthansa and a base for other airlines like Condor and TUI Fly Deutschland. 

Like all of the airports on this list, Munich Airport has an excellent range of facilities for passengers, including 150 shops and boutiques and 65 restaurants, cafes, and bistros.

10. Antalya Airport

A plane descending into Antalya
View of Antalya at dawn
Country: Turkey
Number of passengers (2022): 31,228,377
Percentage change from 2021: +41.7%

The last airport to feature on this list of the busiest airports in Europe is Türkiye’s Antalya Airport, with just over 31.2 million passengers in 2022.

Located eight miles northeast of Antalya’s city center, the airport is a major destination for tourists wanting to visit Türkiye’s Mediterranean coast during the summer months.

Construction of the airport’s International Terminal 1 building began in 1996, and it opened two years later. The International Terminal 2 building opened in 2005, and the domestic terminal opened in 2010.

Today, the airport is a hub for multiple airlines, including Turkish Airlines, Anadolujet, Pegasus Airlines, Corendon Airlines, Freebird Airlines, and SunExpress.

Passengers can enjoy either a quick snack or a full meal in one of the airport’s many restaurants and cafes, or they can pass the time shopping at several of its duty-free shops.

Data Sources:
Airports Council International: Passenger numbers 2022

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