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Aviation witnessed remarkable shifts and surprises in an unprecedented year of recovery and rebound. Airports Council International (ACI) World’s annual list of the 20 busiest airports for 2022 reflects the returning international passenger traffic as the global community emerges from the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. This list, released on July 19, showcases a vibrant landscape, replete with familiar international hubs reasserting their presence and surprising newcomers making their mark.

Astonishing Resurgence: Aviation's Global Titans Reclaim the Sky in 2022

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The Airports Council International (ACI) World published its annual list of the world’s top 20 busiest airports on July 19. The list presents a detailed account of the shifting dynamics in the realm of global aviation in the wake of the pandemic. A rebound from the previous year reflects the robust comeback of international passenger traffic as the world starts emerging from the shadow of COVID-19.

U.S. Airports Continue to Dominate

Despite fluctuations elsewhere, the top four busiest airports in 2022 remained consistent with the 2021 figures—all U.S. airports, led undisputedly by Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). ATL retained its crown, handling a remarkable 93.7 million passengers in 2022, a surge of 23.8% compared to the previous year. Following closely were the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (73.3 million), Denver International Airport (69.3 million), and Chicago O’Hare International Airport (68.3 million).

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Shifts and Surprises in the Global Arena

Contrary to the dominant domestic-focused trend in 2021, the top 20 list in 2022 marked a dramatic shift. While 2021’s list featured 11 U.S. and five Chinese airports, the 2022 roster sees no Chinese airports and a reduced presence of U.S. airports. Among the noteworthy shifts, Florida’s Orlando International Airport (MCO) witnessed a year-over-year rise in traffic by 24% but dropped from the seventh-busiest airport in 2021 to the 17th spot in 2022.

Global Hubs Take Flight: Analyzing the Busiest Airports in 2022

The Triumphant Return of Familiar Hubs

London Heathrow Airport (LHR) staged an astounding comeback, leaping from the 54th rank in 2021 to the eighth position in 2022 with over three times the passenger traffic from the previous year. Dubai International Airport (DXB) returned to the top five, managing 66.1 million passengers. At the same time, Istanbul Airport and New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport made their entries at the seventh and ninth positions, respectively.

A Significant Recovery Post-Pandemic

Despite the challenges, the world’s airports surpassed 6.6 billion passengers in 2022, recovering 72.5% compared to the pre-pandemic levels in 2019 and marking a significant 43.8% increase from 2021. The top 20 airports alone managed a hefty 18% of the global traffic, handling a combined total of 1.2 billion passengers in 2022.

The Resurgence of International Travel: 2022's Busiest Airports

A Resilient Sector Ready for Takeoff

ACI’s list showcases the resilience of the aviation industry and paints a picture of hope as major global hubs reassert their presence. With the global share of international traffic increasing from 25.3% in 2021 to 38.4% in 2022, the global aviation landscape is all set for a new takeoff. The shifting rankings are a testament to the changing global landscape, a sign of returning normalcy, and an indicator of exciting times ahead for the aviation industry.

The list gives us a glimpse into the resurgence of the travel sector, showing how airports have adapted, innovated, and grown in these challenging times. As the world continues to navigate through this turbulent phase, the transformation in ranking the busiest airports will continue to be a yardstick of the sector’s recovery, reflecting the evolving dynamics of global travel.

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