The U.S. claims top spots in World Busiest Airport list

The pandemic scrambled a lot of things in this world, including traffic at airports.

So this year’s list of 10 Busiest Airports in the World, compiled by Airports Council International (ACI) has some surprises.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is reclaiming its title of World’s Busiest Airport. Passengers traffic there increased by more than 76% over 2020, to 75.7 million passengers.

Next on the list: Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which welcomed more than 62.5 million passengers in 2021, an increase of almost 60% over 2020.

In fact, U.S. airports took eight of the top ten spots in the World’s Busiest Airports list for 2021, due in part to the fact that Chinese airports, which usually dominate this list, lost so much traffic due to the pandemic.

Back to the list, then:

#3 on the list this year is Denver International Airport (DEN), where passenger traffic increased more than 74% over 2020.

#4 on the list: Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD), up 75% over 2020.

And at #5: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), up almost 75% over 2020.

Those upticks in passenger traffic look impressive. But keep in mind that traffic overall is still down compared to robust numbers from 2019. For example, 2021 passenger numbers at ATL were down 31% compared to 2019.

Still, the U.S. airports can celebrate this year’s rankings.

As you’ll see in the chart below, Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) lands at spot 6, Orlando International Airport (MCO), which ranked 27 last year, now takes spot 7. And Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas rounds out the 10 Busiest Airports List for 2021 in spot 10.

China’s Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN), which was in the #1 spot last year, dropped to spot #8, and Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport (CTU) snagged spot #9.

“The ACI World passenger traffic rankings tell the story of an encouraging trend of
recovery, with most of the recurrent busiest airports pre-COVID-19, back at the top,” ACI
World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said. “Although we are cautious that
recovery could face multiple headwinds, the momentum created by reopening plans by
countries could lead to an uptick in travel in the second half of 2022.”

PHX joins list of airports where you may reserve your TSA time

No one loves standing on airport TSA security lines. Except maybe Amelia the Airplane, the mascot for Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX).

Now, PHX joins the list of airports where passengers may cut their TSA line wait time by booking ahead. The pilot program is called PHX RESERVE and it kicks off first in PHX Terminal 3.

Travelers may go online and book their reservations up to 72 hours ahead of their flight. When their reservation slot comes around, passengers then go through a dedicated entry TSA entry point.

Better yet: the program, which is an example of ‘virtual cueing’, is free.

Here is a bit more information about the program:

The dedicated PHX Reserve security entry point will be available daily between 4 a.m. and 3 p.m. Reservation times can be made for between 60 minutes and four hours before a passenger’s flight. Individuals can book a spot for themselves or for up to 10 people traveling as a group.

“We are proud Sky Harbor can offer another great service to our customers to make their travels easier and more flexible,” said Chad Makovsky, Director of Aviation Services for the City of Phoenix Aviation Department. “What’s good for our passengers and guests is good for the air travel industry as a whole.”

The ability to schedule a time to go through the airport security checkpoint line is a welcome amenity being offered at other airports too, under a variety of names. The list includes:

SEA Spot Saver at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

DFW Fast Pass at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

LAX Fast Lane at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

VirtuaLine in Terminal A at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).

If we missed the TSA reservation program at your airport, let us know and we’ll add it.

Iguanas: Airport Amenity in the Galapagos

We’re visiting a handful of islands in the Galapagos this week (vaccinated, tested, and masked everywhere) as part of Hurtigruten Expeditions’ inaugural Galapagos cruise, with Metropolitan Touring.

And, yes, we are feeling incredibly fortunate to be able to tag along on a trip that is on so many bucket list adventure lists.

We are just two days into the trip, but already we’ve seen many of the iconic species on the “Big 15” list, including tortoises, iguanas, finches, sea lions, and more.

Once we find a better WiFI connection, we’ll share some better images. But, first things first, let’s talk about the airports.

Our flights to the Galapagos island started from Ecuador’s award-winning Quito International Airport (UIO). We couldn’t access the shops reserved for international travelers. But we found these charming colored pencils for sale in the domestic departures area.

On arrival at Seymour Ecological Galapagos Airport (GPS), on the island of Baltra, we were greeted by this handsome fellow.

“Don’t get too excited just yet” one of the guides said. “You’ll see many more – and much better – iguanas very soon.”

He was right.

Airports mark Int’l Air Traffic Controllers Day

On October 20, airports around the country – and the world – gave thanks and shared great photos in honor of International Airport Traffic Controllers Day. See how many towers you recognize. And read till the end so you can see a very cool airport control tower tattoo!

Let us know if we missed your airport and we’ll add it in.

And look at this new tattoo!

The above tattoo is of the old air traffic control tower at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Here’s a photo of that, courtesy of Carolyn Russo, from her great photography book Art of the Airport Tower.

Airports Compete for Customer Satisfaction. The winners are:

North American airports are filling up again with travelers. And airports are working hard to make the passenger experience as pleasant as can be despite labor shortages that limit the availability of some amenities and food, beverage, and retail options.

Some airports are dealing with it better than others.

In the newest airport rankings from J.D. Power’s 2021 North America Airport Satisfaction Study, released Wednesday, Miami International Airport (MIA) and Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) ranked highest in their respective segments of ‘mega’ airport serving 33 million or more passengers per year and ‘large’ airports serving 10 to 32,9 million passengers per year.

(Due to reduced traffic medium-sized airports, serving 4.5 to 9.9 million passengers annually, were not ranked this year.)

“Our #1 ranking by J.D. Power is an encouraging sign that recent improvements at MIA are making a positive impression on our passengers,” said Ralph Cutié, Miami International Airport Director & CEO. “Our new state-of-the-art baggage handling system, which was fully integrated last year, now doubles the speed and efficiency of baggage screening and delivery for flights in our Central and South terminals, and our dining and retail concessions continue to score high marks.”

Kevin Dolliole, Director of Aviation at MSY airport said “This honor from J.D. Power is a testament to our tireless efforts to deliver safe, efficient, and clean facilities and services to the passengers at the New Orleans Airport.”

The study ranks airports on a 1,000-point scale in six categories, in order of importance: terminal facilities;
airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and

In the ‘mega’ airport category, Miami International Airport (MIA) was first with 828 (of 1000) points, John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) was second, with 817 points, and Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport (MSP) was third with 815 points.

Amongst ‘large’ airports, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) topped the list with 844 points. Tampa International Airport (TPA) secured the 2nd spot with just one less point – 843. And Raliegh-Durham International Airport (RDU) came in third with 841 points.

Here are the full rankings. See where your favorite airport landed.