Ever wondered what the biggest airport in the world is? Today, we’re analyzing the question from a few different angles: largest by area, busiest by yearly passenger traffic, and finally biggest airports by continent. Put up those tray tables, because we’re taking off!
Whether you’re going on a vacation or a business trip, it all begins in one place: the airport.
The ever-growing demand for flights has resulted in cities creating super-sized airports that actually feel like cities themselves. Over 4 billion people travel by plane each year and, with numbers like this, airports have become some of the busiest places on Earth.
As airports continue to expand and develop, so do their design features and facilities. Nowadays, not only can you catch a flight, but you can also shop designer brands, eat in spectacular restaurants, visit spas and more. Some have even gone as far as to have ice rinks, swimming pools, and aquariums!
To give you an idea of the world’s biggest airports, we’ve broken down the top 10 largest airports in the world by land size, as well as 10 more ranked by the number of passengers they see through their terminal gates each year.
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Top 10 Biggest Airports in the World by Area
Size isn’t everything, but when it comes to airports, it really does kick start your vacation before even jumping on the plane. So, you’re probably wondering “what is the biggest airport in the world?” Let’s find out!
1. King Fahd International Airport (DMM): 299.6 sq. mi. | 776.0 sq. km.
Since November 1999, the King Fahd Airport in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, has taken the top spot for the biggest airport in the world.
The airport was named after the former King of Saudi Arabia, Fahd Ibn Abdulaziz, and spans a whopping 299.6 square miles!
King Fahd International Airport sees over 10 million passengers arrive and depart from its terminals every year, with 37 airlines operating flights in and out to 43 destinations.
The airport is made up of 3 terminal buildings:
- One six-story terminal for passengers;
- Another for private airlines; and
- The third and final terminal for the royal family of Saudi Arabia.
The DMM airport has a plant nursery that supplies plants to the airport’s gardens, a separate shopping area, and a rooftop mosque that can accommodate up to 2,000 worshipers at a time.
2. Denver International Airport (DEN): 52.4 sq. mi. | 135.7 sq. km.
The Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado measures in at around 52.4 square miles.
Even though it is significantly smaller than the King Fahd Airport (about 5.5 times smaller), the Denver International Airport is still 1.5 times the size of the island of Manhattan! It also has the longest public use runway in North America, itself running more than 3 miles long.
Currently, you can travel from the Denver International Airport to 215 destinations worldwide, and traveling between the airport’s 3 terminals requires the use of the airport’s automated train system.
As the DEN airport is located near the Rocky Mountains, you can catch incredible mountain views from the west end of all 3 concourse terminals.
3. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW): 26.9 sq. mi. | 69.6 sq. km.
Another airport in America that is larger than the island of Manhattan is the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. DFW even has its own ZIP code and emergency services, so it is basically considered a city. Crazy, right?
The 26.9-square mile DFW airport was built halfway between the major cities of Dallas and Fort Worth (hence the name) and has 26 airlines flying to 260 destinations, making it one of few airports worldwide that fly to over 200 destinations.
The Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport opened in 1973 and has since become the 4th busiest airport worldwide, welcoming over 75 million passengers in 2019.
Flying out of the DFW airport is a mini-vacation in itself. You can visit the spa, practice yoga in the dedicated yoga area, and even take a nap in their newly introduced pay-by-the-hour sleep pods.
4. Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD): 20.3 sq. mi. | 52.6 sq. km.
The fourth-largest airport in the world by size is the Washington Dulles International Airport, which occupies 20.3 square miles of land in Virginia.
The airport opened in 1962 and was named after the 52nd U.S Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles. 139 terminal gates see 60,000 passengers daily fly to over 125 destinations around the world.
5. Orlando International Airport (MCO): 19.7 sq. mi. | 51.0 sq. km.
Located 6 miles out of Downtown Orlando, Florida is the Orlando International Airport that has over 50 million passengers arriving each year, most of whom are likely heading to Disney World.
The MCO airport covers 19.7 square miles of land and has 44 airlines flying to 135 domestic and international destinations.
Want to kill some time before your flight? MCO has 50 restaurants and 60 shops where you can shop for last-minute souvenirs and grab a quick meal before your flight departs.
6. Beijing Daxing International Airport (PKX): 18.0 sq. mi. | 46.6 sq. km.
Although the Beijing Daxing International Airport has the largest single-building airport terminal, the land that the terminal sits on comes in 6th on the world’s biggest airports by land size.
The starfish-designed terminal takes up over 18 square miles of land and cost $11 billion to build!
When the PKX airport opened in 2019, it became Beijing’s second international airport and is expected to be one of the world’s busiest airports in the near future, with flights traveling to 120 destinations.
The starfish design of the terminal was built to allow passengers to walk from check-in to their allocated gate in 8 minutes or less – talk about convenience.
Another cool factor of the Beijing Daxing International Airport is the thought that went into keeping the airport as environmentally friendly as possible. Water management systems, solar panels, and waste heat recovery systems were all put in place to limit the airport’s impact on the environment.
7. George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH): 15.6 sq. mi. | 40.5 sq. km.
The last of 5 American airports to make it onto the world’s largest airport list is the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas.
The airport was named after the 41st President of the United States, George H. W. Bush, and its terminal and 5 runways cover nearly 16 square miles of land.
A subway and skyway help 45 million people travel through the IAH airport’s 5 terminals every year.
8. Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG): 15.4 sq. mi. | 40 sq. km.
China’s second airport to make the list is the Shanghai Pudong International Airport, in Shanghai.
The PVG airport is one of two major airports in Shanghai city that sits on 15.4 square miles, and features 6 runways and 3 passenger terminals.
Shanghai Pudong International Airport is China’s busiest international gateway, welcoming over 35 million passengers every year. PVG also makes it onto the exclusive list of airports flying to more than 200 destinations worldwide.
9. Cairo International Airport (CAI): 14.3 sq. mi. | 37.0 sq. km.
Cairo International Airport in the capital of Egypt is the country’s busiest airport and has an area of 14.3 square miles.
The airport opened in 1963 and now has 3 main terminals and a seasonal terminal for the 15 million passengers that fly in and out of CAI.
10. Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK): 12.5 sq. mi. | 32.4 sq. km.
The final airport of the top 10 biggest airports in the world, goes to Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand.
Covering 12.5 square miles, BKK airport is one of the biggest airports in Southeast Asia and gets its name, Suvarnabhumi, from the Sanskrit word for “land of gold”.
The airport fully opened in 2006 and the 95 airlines that operate out of it bring in over 50 million passengers each and every year.
Whether you’re flying in to reenact the Hangover or just to witness the beautiful Thai culture, you’ll be landing on one of the airport’s 2 runways before making your way through one of BKK’s 3 terminals.
Top 10 Busiest Airports in the World by Traffic
Just because an airport is big, doesn’t mean it has the most amount of daily traffic. Only 3 of the top 10 biggest airports made it onto the list of the world’s busiest airports!
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the world’s busiest airports pre 2020 pandemic.
1. Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL): 110MM Passengers/Year
The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, had over 1,000 flights a day to 225 domestic and international destinations.
It held the title as the world’s busiest airport from 1998 to 2019 until the pandemic struck and the ATL airport lost this title to Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in China.
Even though the airport sees roughly 110 million passengers each year, the area the ATL airport covers is only 7.3 square miles.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is just over 40 times smaller than the world’s largest airport, King Fahd International Airport, but has 10 times the amount of yearly passengers.
2. Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK): 100MM Passengers/Year
Since 2010, Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China, has been the world’s second busiest airport in terms of annual passengers.
PEK is 5.7 square miles, and with over 100 million passengers each year, it takes the title of Asia’s busiest airport.
3. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX): 88MM Passengers/Year
LAX takes 3rd place with over 88 million passengers flying in and out of its impressive 9 terminals.
The 5.4-square mile airport is also America’s second busiest airport behind Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
4. Dubai International Airport (DXB): 86MM Passengers/Year
Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates has slightly over 86 million passengers and occupies 11.2 square miles of land.
5. Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND): 85MM Passengers/Year
Japan’s Tokyo Haneda has 3 terminals and, on average, 85.5 million passengers each year.
It spans over 4.3 square miles and was voted the world’s cleanest airport in 2020.
6. O’Hare International Airport (ORD): 84MM Passengers/Year
O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, is 11.9 square miles. It sees over 84 million passengers each year, making it America’s third busiest airport.
7. Heathrow Airport (LHR): 80MM Passengers/Year
Heathrow Airport is one of London’s 6 airports and by far the busiest. 80.8 million people fly in and out of Heathrow’s 4 terminals that spans over 4.7 square miles of land.
8. Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG): 76MM Passengers/Year
Shanghai Pudong International Airport is the 8th largest in the world and the 8th busiest as of 2021. The 15.4 square mile airport welcomes over 76 million people into China each year.
9. Charles de Gaulle (CDG): 76MM Passengers/Year
The largest international airport in France, Charles de Gaulle, is one of the busiest airports in Europe with 76 million people flying in and out annually.
The 32.38 square kilometer airport has 3 terminals and 4 runways.
10. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW): 75MM Passengers/Year
Number 3 on the world’s biggest airports makes number 10 on the world’s busiest.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, with its very own ZIP code, has 75 million passengers passing through its doors, resulting in it being the 4th busiest airport in America.
Largest Airports by Continent
Just because an airport isn’t within the world’s top 10 largest airports, doesn’t mean it’s small by any means. Breaking down the spread of the world’s biggest airports by continent is quite revealing:
What Are the Biggest Airports in Asia?
- King Fahd International Airport (DMM)
- Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG)
- Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK)
- Beijing Daxing International Airport (PKX)
- Dubai International Airport (DXB)
What Are the Biggest Airports in Africa?
- Oliver Tambo International Airport (JNB)
- Cairo International Airport (CAI)
- Cape Town International Airport (CPT)
- King Shaka International Airport (DUR)
- Sharm El-Sheikh international airport (SSH)
What Are the Biggest Airports in North America?
- Denver International Airport (DEN)
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
- Orlando International Airport (MCO)
- Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)
- George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
What Are the Biggest Airports in South America?
- São Paulo Guarulhos International Airport (GRU)
- El Dorado International Airport (BOG)
- Mexico City International Airport (MEX)
- São Paulo Congonhas International Airport (CGH)
- Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (SCL)
What Are the Biggest Airports in Europe?
- Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)
- London Heathrow (LHR)
- Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport (AMS)
- Frankfurt am Main Airport (FRA)
- Adolfo Suárez de Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD)
What Are the Biggest Airports in Australia?
- Brisbane Airport (BNE)
- Melbourne Tullamarine Airport (MEL)
- Perth Airport (PER)
- Melbourne Avalon Airport (AVV)
- Sydney Airport (SYD)
The World’s Biggest and Busiest Airports: Conclusion
Our Earth is full of amazing places and if you’re lucky enough to catch a flight, you too could end up in one of these incredible airports.
If you’ve ever been to one of the world’s top 10 biggest airports, leave us a comment with your personal thoughts and opinions. We’d love to hear them!