The 10 Busiest Airports in the United States

January 4, 2024

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Passengers queuing up in front of a terminal window waiting to board a flight

Millions of people pass through airports all over the world each year. Thanks to its vibrant cities, national parks, and historic monuments, the US sees more than its fair share of tourists and business visitors.

There are over 5,000 public airports in the United States that service the travel demands of both domestic and international passengers.

We’ve listed the ten busiest airports in the US based on data from the Airports Council International. The rankings are based on the total passenger numbers for 2022. Let’s dive into it!

1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

Aerial view of the airport and runways of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport
Aerial view of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Number of passengers (2022): 93,699,630
Percentage change from 2021: +23.8%

Not only is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) the busiest airport in the United States, it is also the busiest airport in the world, with a total of 93 million passengers in 2022. This airport is based in Atlanta, Georgia and is just 10 miles (16 km) south of the Downtown Atlanta district.

ATL was opened in 1926. By 1930, it was the third busiest airport in the US (after New York City and Chicago) and regularly had 16 arriving and departing flights. In 2023, this figure is closer to 2,700 daily arrivals and departures.

The airport has two terminals and 192 gates. It has a direct service to over 150 cities across the US and more than 60 international destinations.

2. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

View from a plan coming in to land at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
Aerial view of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
Location: Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
Number of passengers (2022): 73,362,946
Percentage change from 2021: +17.5%

Coming in second place is Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), which saw 73 million passengers in 2022. The airport is based roughly halfway between the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth in Texas.

DFW was opened in 1973, although Dallas had proposed a joint airport with Fort Worth as early as 1927. The airport covers 17,207 acres (70 sq km), which makes it the second largest airport by land area in the US.

This airport has service to 193 US locations and 67 international destinations. Only a few airports in the world share the distinction of service to over 200 destinations.

3. Denver International Airport (DEN)

Plane on the runway at Denver International Airport
View of snow-capped Rocky Mountains from Denver International Airport
Location: Denver, Colorado
Number of passengers (2022): 69,286,461
Percentage change from 2021: +17.8%

Denver International Airport (DEN) holds the title of the third-busiest airport in the US, in addition to being the largest airport by land area in the US. The airport stretches over 33,531 acres, with one terminal and 179 gates. It’s also the world’s second-largest airport by land area, after King Fahd International Airport in Saudi Arabia.

DEN was opened in 1995. Before it was opened, the Stapleton International Airport served Denver. While Stapleton had always been one of the busiest airports in the US, it was cramped, and runways were too close together. It’s estimated DEN cost $4.8 billion (equivalent to $7.9 billion in 2021) to build.

This airport has over 35,000 employees, which makes it the largest employer in Colorado. It currently services over 215 domestic and international destinations. DEN is also home to the longest runway in North America, which measures 16,000 feet (4,900 m).

4. Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

American Airlines plane docked at a terminal at Chicago O'Hare terminal
American Airlines plane at the terminal in Chicago O’Hare International Airport
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Number of passengers (2022): 68,340,619
Percentage change from 2021: +26.5%

The Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), based in Chicago, Illinois, is the fourth busiest airport in the US. It has flights to 214 domestic and international destinations and a total of 213 gates.

ORD began life as an airfield for a Douglas manufacturing plant during the Second World War. It was the first major airport planned after the war and pioneered designs such as concourses (buildings that provide access to airplanes via gates), jet bridges, and underground refueling systems.

The airport has eight runways and sees 2,700 arriving and departing flights each day. This amounted to over 68 million passengers in 2022 alone.

5. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

SAS A330-200 takes off from Los Angeles International Airport
A Scandinavian Airlines plane taking off at LAX
Location: Los Angeles, California
Number of passengers (2022): 65,924,298
Percentage change from 2021: +37.3%

Located 18 miles (30 km) southwest of Downtown Los Angeles, the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the fifth busiest airport in the US. The airport covers 3,500 acres (14 sq km) and has four runways. In 2022, the airport serviced 65 million passengers.

LAX opened in 1928, but there were no commercial flights until 1946. The airport’s current layout of passenger facilities was designed in 1958. In 2022, LAX saw an incredible 65 million pass through the airport.

The airport has nine passenger terminals and 150 gates. These gates are arranged in the shape of a horseshoe. The Theme Building was built at the center of the airport in 1961. It has a distinct domed appearance and arches that look like a flying saucer. The building has an observation deck and a restaurant.

6. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

Planes at John F. Kennedy International Airport
Planes and ground support equipment at JFK Airport
Location: New York City, New York
Number of passengers (2022): 55,287,711
Percentage change from 2021: +79.6%

The sixth busiest airport in the US is John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). The airport was opened in 1948 and originally called New York International Airport (or ‘Idlewild Airport’). However, it was renamed in honor of president John F Kennedy, following his assassination in 1963.

JFK has five terminals (numbered 1-8) and 130 gates. Terminals 3 and 6 have been demolished and Terminal 2 was closed in 2023. In 2017, a luxury terminal for pets (called the ARK) was opened. It cost around $65 million to build and features a medical clinic, kennels and dedicated climate-controlled vehicles to transport animals to and from various airport locations.

The airport covers  5,200 acres (21 sq km) and has four runways. One of these (13R/31L) is the third-longest runway in North America, measuring 14,511 feet (4,423 m).

7. Harry Reid International Airport (LAS)

Plane landing at Harry Reid International Airport
Plane landing at Harry Reid International Airport
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Number of passengers (2022): 52,694,312
Percentage change from 2021: +32.6%

Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) is the seventh busiest airport in the US, with 52 million passengers recorded in 2022. It covers 2,800 acres (11 sq km), five concourses and 108 gates. When it opened in 1949, the airport served just 36,000 passengers.

LAS is the main airport for the Las Vegas Valley and is often referred to as simply ‘Las Vegas Airport’. The airport serves both military and civilian flights, with non-stop flights to cities throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. The airport was called McCarran Field until when it was renamed after Senator Harry Reid, who died at the end of that year.

The Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum is based inside the airport and features exhibits focused on the Southern Nevada region’s commercial and general aviation history. The main exhibit can be found in Terminal 1 on level 2.

8. Miami International Airport (MIA)

Passengers at Miami International Airport
Travelers at Miami International Airport
Location Miami, Florida
Number of passengers (2022): 50,684,396
Percentage change from 2021: +35.9%

The first airport built on the site of MIA was opened in 1928. At the time, it covered 116 acres (0.46 sq km) and was the only mainland airport in the eastern with port of entry (where individuals can lawfully enter the country).

MIA covers 3,300 acres (13 sq km), with six concourses and 131 gates. The airport is Florida’s main airport for long-haul international flights, with services to  the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia. It offers more flights to Latin America and the Caribbean than any other airport in the US.

9. Orlando International Airport (MCO)

Check-in hall at Orlando Airport
Check-in desk at Orlando International Airport
Location: Orlando, Florida
Number of passengers (2022): 50,176,103
Percentage change from 2021: +24.2%

Yet another Florida airport to feature on the list is Orlando International Airport (MCO), which saw 50 million passengers in 2022. It’s located around six miles (9.7 km) from downtown Orlando and covers 11,605 acres (47 sq km).

The airport’s code (MCO) refers to its former name: McCoy Air Force Base. The military base was opened in 1940 and closed in 1975 (following the general military drawdown after the Vietnam War ended).

MCO serves 135 domestic and international flights across 44 airlines. The airport has 93 gates and three terminals. It sees around 850 arriving and departing flights each day.

10. Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)

An airplane taking off at Charlotte International Douglas Airport
Plane taking off at Charlotte International Douglas Airport
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Number of passengers (2022): 47,758,605
Percentage change from 2021: +10.3%

The Charlotte Douglas International Airport is based in Charlotte, North Carolina. It is the tenth largest airport in the US, with 47 million passengers recorded in 2022. The airport covers  5,558 acres (22 sq km), with four runways and 115 gates.

CLT opened in 1935 under the name Charlotte Municipal Airport. It was renamed to Douglas Municipal Airport in 1954, after former Charlotte Mayor Ben Elbert Douglas Sr. Douglas had overseen the airport’s opening some 20 years before.

The airport services over 700 flights each day to over 161 domestic and international destinations. Visitors also come to see The Carolinas Aviation Museum, which has over 50 aircraft in its collection. The Museum was opened in 1992 and is one of only a small number of aviation museums located at a major hub airport.

Data Sources:
Airports Council International: Passenger numbers 2022

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