News and notes from Hartsfield-Jackson, the world's busiest airport

Hartsfield-Jackson maintains "world’s busiest" status

After handling a record 101.5 million passengers last year, Hartsfield-Jackson International remains the world’s busiest airport, according to an industry group's annual ranking.

Preliminary results released Monday by industry group Airports Council International confirm the Atlanta airport held the No. 1 spot in the world for traffic and flight counts for 2015.

Hartsfield-Jackson has had the most passengers in the world for 18 years straight, and has regained its title for the most flights in the world. Chicago O’Hare in 2014 temporarily claimed the title for the most flights.

The Atlanta airport, plagued with long lines and security checkpoint wait times of nearly an hour during busy periods, recently decided to de-emphasize the “busy” part of its title and started calling itself the “world’s most traveled” airport.

Yet with a 5.5 percent increase in traffic counts for 2015 that made it the first airport in the history of aviation to ever handle more than 100 million passengers in a single year, there’s little question that Hartsfield-Jackson is quite busy.

“Atlanta has benefitted tremendously from its strategic location as a major connecting hub and port of entry into North America,” Airports Council International said in a press release, noting that Hartsfield-Jackson is within a two-hour flight of 80 percent of the United States population.

Atlanta-based Delta dominates Hartsfield-Jackson, where it operates the world’s largest airline hub.  Southwest Airlines is the No. 2 airline in Atlanta. Meanwhile, ultra low-cost carriers including Spirit and Frontier have expanded at Hartsfield-Jackson recently, attracting more local passengers traveling to and from Atlanta.

But other airports around the world are gaining on Atlanta. Beijing sits at the No. 2 position with 89.9 million passengers in 2015, and had been expected to take the No. 1 spot before its growth slowed.

Dubai’s rapidly-growing airport jumped from the No. 6 spot to the No. 3 position with a 10.7 percent increase in passenger traffic to 78 million passengers last year, and is the world’s busiest measured by international passenger counts.

“It is impressive to witness the dynamic character of the aviation industry and its evolution over time,” said Airports Council International director general Angela Gittens, a former manager of Atlanta’s airport, in a written statement.

However, airport capacity will remain an issue for handling the “surge in demand for air travel,” according to Gittens.

Airports Council International ranking

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About the Author

Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.