Hartsfield-Jackson retains title of world’s busiest airport

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport remains the world’s busiest airport, according to the latest ranking from Airports Council International.

The airport group’s preliminary ranking based on 2016 traffic at airports around the world put the Atlanta airport in the No. 1 position for both passenger counts and flight counts.

Hartsfield-Jackson handled more than 104 million passengers last year, up 2.6 percent. An oft-cited factor that makes Atlanta’s airport a crucial air hub is that the airport is within a two-hour flight of 80 percent of the U.S. population.

In the No. 2 spot is Beijing Capital, followed by Dubai, fast-growing Los Angeles International, Seoul and Shanghai. The four other airports in the top 5 are all growing faster than Hartsfield-Jackson, and Beijing is less than 10 million passengers behind Atlanta.

“We see passenger traffic continuing to grow at many of the major hubs,” said ACI World director general Angela Gittens, who is also a former Hartsfield-Jackson general manager. “The combined use of larger aircraft, increased load factors by airlines and more efficient use of infrastructure continue to be an important trend across the industry.”

The city of Atlanta has been keen to retain the title of world’s busiest airport -- or world’s most traveled, as officials at one point preferred to call it.  

Yet the volume and concentration of flights and passengers handled at Hartsfield-Jackson also means that when things go wrong, it can affect thousands of people.

That’s what happened when a day of thunderstorms led to a Delta Air Lines meltdown earlier this month that disrupted the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of passengers.

While Chicago O’Hare in 2014 was briefly the world’s busiest in flight counts, Atlanta has had the most flights for the past two years.

Hartsfield-Jackson had a 1.8 percent increase in flights in 2016, while Chicago O’Hare had a 0.9 percent decline.

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