Updated On: November 08, 2023 by Courtney Augello
In the United States, there are thousands of airports. They range from small, regional airports that see very little traffic to some of the world’s largest and busiest airports that millions of people travel through.
What makes one airport more popular and busy than another? It could be the location, the amenities, or the ease of navigating your way to the gates. To answer this question, we’ve taken a look at the top 10 busiest airports in the USA to see what makes them stand out from the rest.
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1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is located in Atlanta, Georgia, just 10 miles from the downtown area. The airport opened in 1926 and has grown to cover more than 4,500 acres of space with 5 runways.
Atlanta International Airport isn’t just one of the busiest airports in the USA; it is the busiest. It regularly welcomes over 100 million passengers each year. Even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 75 million people travelled through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Although ATL is the busiest airport in the USA, it is not the largest in size. In fact, Atlanta International Airport is not even in the top 10 largest airports in the USA. Despite its small size compared to other airports, many passengers love to fly from ATL.
Atlanta International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the USA, thanks to it being the largest hub for Delta Air Lines, a major airline based in the United States. Delta Air Lines is one of the oldest airlines in the world and is the second largest globally by total passengers and number of departures.
In addition to being the busiest airport in the USA, Atlanta International Airport is the busiest airport in the world. In fact, it has held the title of the world’s busiest airport since 1998. ATL has also been voted the most efficient airport in the world for the past 18 years.
2. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport comes in second on the list of the top 10 busiest airports in the USA. Located in Dallas in the North of Texas, the airport is so large that it needs its own postal code.
DFW spans an impressive 17,000 acres. The airport hosts 7 runways and 5 terminals for flights that head to over 250 different destinations across the country and the world. Because of its size, the airport has its own police, fire department, and medical services.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport sees nearly 1000 departures each day, cementing its place on the list of busiest airports in the USA. With over 62 million passengers in 2022, DFW is also the second busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic.
Second to just the Delta Air Line hub at Atlanta International Airport, DFW is home to one of the largest airline hubs in the world. American Airlines, the largest airline in the world by passenger numbers and fleet size, is based out of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
American Airlines sees more than 200 million passengers each year, or 500,000 each day. They operate nearly 7,000 flights daily to over 300 destinations in 50 countries around the world. Their hub in Dallas secures DFW’s place on the list of the top 10 busiest airports in the USA.
3. Denver International Airport (DEN)
Denver International Airport is the third busiest airport in the USA. Located in Denver, Colorado, the airport opened in 1995 and currently hosts 25 airlines with flights to over 200 destinations worldwide.
In addition to being one of the busiest airports in the USA, Denver International Airport is also the third busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic. In fact, Denver International Airport has been one of the 20 busiest airports in the world yearly since 2000.
Although Denver International Airport is not the busiest airport in the USA, it is by far the largest. It covers more than double the area of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. In total, DEN encompasses a jaw-dropping 33,500 acres of land.
Denver International Airport is the largest airport in the Western Hemisphere and the second largest in the world. DEN is second only to King Fahd International Airport in Saudi Arabia. DEN is also home to one of the longest runways in the USA and the world, Runway 16R/34L, which is over 3 miles long.
Denver International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the USA due to being a hub for multiple airlines. DEN is a major hub for Frontier Airlines and United Airlines, both major US-based airlines. It is also the largest base for the popular Southwest Airlines.
4. O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
O’Hare International Airport is located in Chicago, Illinois and comes in 4th of the top 10 busiest airports in the USA. The airport opened in 1944 but was not used commercially until eleven years later, in 1955. O’Hare is just 17 miles from the Loop, Chicago’s business district and commercial hub.
The airport covers nearly 8,000 acres of land and has 8 runways. O’Hare International Airport is considered the most connected airport in the world because of its number of non-stop flights and destinations.
In total, O’Hare averages 2,500 takeoffs and landings each day. The airport offers non-stop flights to over 200 destinations across the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, and more from its 4 terminals and 213 gates.
O’Hare International Airport was originally an airfield and manufacturing plant for Douglas C-54 Skymaster aircraft during World War II. During this time, it was called Orchard Field Airport and given the ORD IATA code.
After World War II ended, the airport was renamed to O’Hare International in honour of Edward Henry O’Hare, a navy pilot who received the first Medal of Honor during the war. ORD was the first major US airport to be built after World War II.
O’Hare International Airport was the busiest airport in the USA and worldwide from 1963 to 1998 by number of passengers. Today, it remains in the top 5 busiest airports in the USA and globally and has the most aircraft movements of any airport in the world at over 900,000 per year.
O’Hare International Airport serves as a major hub for two airlines: United Airlines and American Airlines. ORD also is a hub for Spirit Airlines, although it is not as big as the other two. These headquarters help to put O’Hare International Airport on the list of the top 10 busiest airports in the USA.
5. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
The famous Los Angeles International Airport, better known as LAX, is the fifth busiest airport in the USA. LAX is located in Los Angeles, California, and covers 3,500 acres of land featuring 4 runways.
Although the traffic through Los Angeles International Airport has dwindled recently, in 2019, it was the third busiest airport in the world and second in the USA. That year, LAX saw over 88 million passengers.
LAX is the busiest and largest airport on the West Coast of the USA. It is the busiest origin and destination airport in the world because most passengers either start or end their trip at LAX rather than using it as a connecting airport to other destinations.
Los Angeles International Airport is renowned for its amenities. Seating areas, amazing restaurants, and beautiful works of art make LAX a relaxing airport to navigate. The airport also features a museum, observation deck, and shopping area.
A passenger favourite amenity that puts the airport on the list of busiest airports in the USA is LAX’s PUP programme, which stands for Pets Unstressing Passengers. Volunteer therapy dogs are brought into the departure areas to visit with waiting passengers and help calm any nervous fliers.
Another aspect of Los Angeles International Airport that makes it one of the busiest airports in the USA is its record number of airline hubs. LAX serves as a hub for more airlines than any other airport in the country. The airlines include American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Alaskan Airlines, United Airlines, and Polar Air Cargo.
6. Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
The sixth busiest airport in the USA, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, is located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Located six miles from the city’s business district, the airport is used for both commercial and military aircraft.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport opened in 1935 and covers over 5,500 acres. The airport features 115 gates among 5 concourses and 4 runways. Although it is a mid-sized airport, that does not inhibit large numbers of passengers travelling, takeoffs, and landings.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport only recently entered the top 10 busiest airports in the USA. In 2019, the airport was ranked 11th busiest, with just over 50 million passengers that year. In 2021, CLT reached 6th place on the list due to the post-COVID travel boom.
In addition to being the headquarters of the Charlotte Air National Guard, CLT is also a central hub airport for American Airlines. The majority of the flights out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport are operated by the airline.
Seven other US-based airlines and three foreign airlines fly out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Nonstop flights to nearly 200 international destinations are offered at the airport, including Canada, Europe, and the Bahamas.
7. Orlando International Airport (MCO)
Orlando, Florida, is home to warm weather, scenic beaches, Walt Disney World and other theme parks, and one of the busiest airports in the USA: Orlando International Airport. It is the busiest airport in the state of Florida and central to many of the best attractions in the state.
The airport was originally built in 1940 as an airfield for the US Military. The initial name of the airport was McCoy Air Force Base, which is why its IATA code is MCO. The airfield was used during World War II; the base was also used during the Korean War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Vietnam War.
In the 1960s, the first commercial flights began operating out of Orlando International Airport. Then, in 1975, the military base closed and the airport became civilian-only. Today, approximately 50 million passengers travel through MCO annually, making it one of the busiest airports in the USA.
Along with being one of the busiest airports in the USA, Orlando International Airport is also one of the largest. The airport covers over 11,000 acres and has 4 parallel runways. Inside the airport, there are four concourses and 129 departure gates.
Orlando International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the USA due to it being a hub for multiple airlines. Silver Airways, a Florida-based airline, and other regional airlines have bases at MCO. Southwest Airlines and Spirit Airlines also have hubs at Orlando International Airport.
8. Harry Reid International Airport (LAS)
Passengers who fly into Harry Reid International Airport land in Paradise, literally. Located in Paradise, Nevada, it is one of the busiest airports in the USA for good reason. Harry Reid International Airport is the destination airport for anyone visiting Las Vegas.
Harry Reid International Airport is 5 miles south of Downtown Las Vegas and the Strip, making it a perfect airport for holiday-goers. The airport opened in 1942. It spans across 2,800 acres and has 2 terminals, 110 gates, and 4 runways.
LAS is one of the busiest airports in the USA, not only because of its proximity to Sin City but also because of its unique entertainment. Harry Reid International Airport is one of only 2 airports in the USA to have slot machines in the terminals.
The slot machines at Harry Reid International Airport help make a Las Vegas holiday feel just a bit longer and help passengers pass the time as they wait to board their flights. Other amenities include restaurants, a spa and massage area, and vending machines selling makeup, LEGO toys, and more.
Harry Reid International Airport’s airline hubs also help make it one of the busiest airports in the USA. LAS is a base for Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and other regional airlines. Some helicopter companies also have bases at LAS.
9. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is a military and commercial airport located in Phoenix, Arizona. PHX is the largest and busiest airport in the state of Arizona, as well as the 8th busiest airport in the USA and 11th in the world.
The most popular flights out of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport are to national destinations such as Las Vegas, Chicago, and Denver. The most popular international destinations include Cancún, London, and Toronto.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport saw nearly 45 million passengers in 2022, cementing it as one of the busiest airports in the USA. The airport features over 120 gates and 3 runways. Over 1,200 flights take off from and land at PHX daily.
PHX serves as a hub for 3 airlines: Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and Frontier Airlines. Of the 3, American Airlines operates the most flights out of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
10. Miami International Airport (MIA)
In 2021, Miami International Airport saw nearly 18 million passengers and operated over 1,000 flights per day. MIA is the busiest airport in Florida by total passengers and total aircraft movement.
In addition to being one of the busiest airports in the USA for passengers, Miami International Airport is also the busiest international cargo airport in the country. Over 50,000 cargo flights left the airport in 2022.
Miami International Airport is the busiest airport in the USA for international passengers. It is a gateway that hosts over 13 million international passengers each year, making it 11th in the world. The high number of international passengers helps make MIA one of the busiest airports in the USA.
The Busiest Airports in the USA See Millions of Passengers
Airports all over the world see millions of passengers every year. But, few see as many as the busiest airports in the USA. In fact, the 8 busiest airports in the USA are also among the top 10 busiest airports in the world.
Each airport has its own atmosphere and reason for being so busy. Some airports are in popular tourist destinations, some are hubs for big airlines, and others have fun amenities like museums and slot machines. If you’re on holiday in the USA and spend time in an airport, use any spare time to explore the history and amenities available.
If you’re planning a trip to the USA, check out our list of The Best City Breaks in the USA.