Atlanta International, the world’s busiest airport in the last two decades, is now down to second place after Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, with Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport coming up third.
COVID-19 first erupted in China, but China is also the first country to overcome the pandemic, and the aviation sector is the best proof.
Airport Council International (ACI) ranked Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport as 11 in the world in 2019, yet last year, with the rapid recovery of domestic air traffic in China, it became the world’s busiest airport. It is not officially announced, yet the city and airport officials have mentioned this achievement in a recent press conference.
Guangzhou Airport handled 43.768 million passengers in 2020, a 40.4% decrease from 2019, yet other airports around the world have suffered a much worse decline in traffic.
Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport has registered a 61.2% freefall, with a total of 42.918 million passengers last year, thus losing its seniority after more than twenty years.
Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport catered to 37.916 million passengers in 2020, a mere 28.4% drop in traffic, and its ranking has rocketed from 26 in 2019 to third place in 2020. Other major Chinese airports, such as Chengdu International, Beijing Capital International and Shanghai International, will also be ranked in the top ten in 2020, with more than 30 million passengers each.
On the other hand, large airports around the globe have been badly hit by the pandemic. Chicago O’Hare and Tokyo both handled 28.6 million passengers by November 2020, but will report a significant drop in traffic compared to 2019, when they served about 85 million passengers each.
Los Angeles International Airport, ranked third in the world in 2019, had 29 million passengers last year, a 67% drop from the previous year.
Dubai International Airport, fourth largest in 2019, went through an even worse year, with 17.889 million passengers, a decrease of close to 80%.
In Europe, both Heathrow London and Charles de Gaulle Paris served just over 22 million last year, while Istanbul’s new airport, which opened in April 2019 and handled 23.4 million passengers in 2020, surpassed them both and ranked first in Europe.