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This Is the World’s Busiest Airport

By Matt Villano

Sep 14, 2016

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It makes sense, when you think about it.

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It looks like another abysmal season for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons this year, but residents in the ATL have a different champion to celebrate: Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

This year, the Atlanta travel hub will retain its title as the world’s busiest airport based on total passenger traffic and flight counts, at least according to the results of a study released last week by Airports Council International (ACI). 

Study results were based on flight information from 2015 and pull together data from more than 2,300 airports in 160 countries worldwide.

The study, dubbed the World Airport Traffic Report, indicated that Atlanta airport handled a record 101.5 million passengers in 2015, an increase of 5.5 percent over 2014. Hartsfield-Jackson also reclaimed (from Chicago O’Hare International Airport) its position as the airport with the most take-offs and landings in the world (industry geeks call this “movement”).

What is it about the Atlanta airport that enables it to capture so much traffic? According to an article on CNN, location is everything; the city sits within a two-hour flight of 80 percent of the U.S. population (basically, everyone in the country who isn’t on the West Coast).

Also, as regular travelers know, the airport has great food.

Other airports scored high marks in the ACI study, too. Dubai International Airport was the busiest airport in the world based on international passenger counts. DXB also moved up the most on ACI’s overall power rankings; the airport was the sixth-busiest passenger airport in 2014, but jumped into third position in 2015 after total passenger traffic grew by 10.7 percent.

In terms of cargo traffic, Hong Kong and Memphis were named top two airports in the world based on overall tonnage. Hong Kong handles the greatest amount of international cargo and Memphis (if you remember the Tom Hanks flick, the Tennessee city is home to FedEx) handles the most domestically.

Overall, ACI noted in a press release that worldwide passenger traffic spiked 6.4 percent to 7.2 billion in 2015—the strongest growth rate since 2010 and at a clip similar to those recorded from 2004-2007, before the recession. 

Furthermore, the report noted that while 16 airports had over 40 million passengers in 2005, this number has more than doubled and rose to a total of 37 airports in 2015.

The bottom line: People are traveling just as much as ever, which is music to our ears.

Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications includingTIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur,and more. He contributes to the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com

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