Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport Loses Title of ‘Busiest’ for Passengers in the World After 22 Years

Friday, April 23rd, 2021

Airports Council International (ACI) released its preliminary world airport traffic rankings today, listing Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) as the busiest passenger traffic airport in the United States and busiest in the world based on operations.  Guangzhou Bai Yun International Airport in southeast China was named busiest passenger airport in the world in 2020, moving ATL out of the top ranking for the first time since 1998. However, ATL was named—once again—the busiest airport in the world for operations with 548,016 aircraft movements recorded.

“While we have been proud of our title as busiest in the world, 2020 was an unprecedented year, with unprecedented challenges, impacting travel across the United States, and the globe,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said today. “Hartsfield-Jackson’s top priority remains providing a safe and efficient experience for the traveling public. During the pandemic, ATL took substantial steps to protect passengers and employees alike. Those steps are allowing Hartsfield-Jackson and its partner airlines to return to normal, and with a renewed push to reclaim our title as the world’s busiest airport.”

In an effort to mitigate the threats posed by COVID-19, Hartsfield-Jackson obtained more than 4 million face masks for distribution to passengers and employees, installed more than 1,000 feet of plexiglass barriers, printed more than 4,200 stickers reminding passengers to maintain social distancing, installed more than 500 hand sanitizing stations, and embarked on a thorough cleaning protocol. ATL’s airline partners also focused on safety during the height of the pandemic: Delta Air Lines, ATL’s major carrier, took the substantial step of blocking middle seats on its aircraft.  Many of the Airport’s safety protocols will remain in place for the foreseeable future as ATL works to regain confidence from the traveling public.

“Our status as the nation’s most efficient airport is extremely important to ATL,” said Interim Airport General Manager Balram “B” Bheodori. “Maintaining efficiency benefits the airlines, the concessionaires, and – most importantly – our passengers.”

 Hartsfield-Jackson in 2015 became the first airport in the world to record more than 100 million passengers in a calendar year. In 2019, ATL served more than 110 million passengers, but the worldwide pandemic impacted aviation substantially in 2020. ATL recorded 42.9 million passengers last year, a drop of 61.2 percent.

According to ACI’s figures, seven of top 10 airports for passenger traffic are in China, and the remaining three are in the United States: ATL, Dallas/Ft. Worth (ranked fourth), and Denver (ranked seventh). In addition to its status as the busiest domestic airport in 2020, ATL was named—once again—the busiest airport in the world for operations with 548,016 aircraft movements recorded.