Dubai retains title as world's busiest international airport in December, OAG says

The Middle East hub had 4.6 million flight seats, with London Heathrow in second place with 3.5 million

Dubai had just over a million more international flight seats than the next busiest airport, London Heathrow. Photo: Dubai Airports
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Dubai International Airport retained its position as the world's busiest for international passengers in December, ahead of major hubs such as London Heathrow and spurred on by the rebound of Emirates airline.

The monthly rankings by aviation consultancy OAG were calculated using airlines' international seat capacity and international flight frequency in December 2022, compared with the same month in 2019 before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dubai held on to the top spot of busiest airport for international flights in December, with 4.6 million seats, an increase of 8 per cent compared with November, and just over one million seats more than the next busiest airport, London Heathrow, OAG said in its monthly World's Busiest Airports report.

Dubai and London Heathrow were also in first and second place respectively in 2019.

Dubai International Airport handled 18.5 million passengers in the third quarter of this year, more than doubling year on year amid a bigger-than-expected rebound from the pandemic, according to operator Dubai Airports.

This was first time that quarterly traffic reached pre-pandemic levels since 2020, with the figure higher than the 17.8 million passengers who travelled through the airport in the first quarter of 2020 before the onset of Covid-19.

The airport recorded average monthly traffic exceeding the six million mark throughout the third quarter.

Paris Charles de Gaulle, Istanbul Airport and Singapore Changi Airport rounded off the top five busiest international airports, the data showed.

South Korea's Incheon Airport increased capacity by 19 per cent this month compared to last month, marking the biggest increase in the top-10-ranked hubs. This has moved Incheon up one place to ninth for international flights.

Out of the top 10 busiest international airports this month, eight were in the top 10 in December 2019 as well. The airports that have seen their rankings rise, bringing them into the top 10 now, are Doha (up from 13th to eighth place) and Madrid (up from 14th to 10th position).

Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson retained its dominance in December in the world's top 10 busiest global airports ranking, which takes into account domestic and international capacity. Dubai does not have a domestic air travel market.

The top 10 busiest airports in the world rankings are calculated using total flight seat capacity (domestic and international) and the top10 busiest international airports are calculated using international seats only.

Atlanta continued to be the world’s busiest airport with 4.7 million seats, a 1 per cent increase compared to last month, according to OAG estimates.

Dubai and Tokyo Haneda airports remain in second and third places, respectively, with Dubai increasing capacity between November and December 2022 by 8 per cent and Tokyo Haneda by 7 per cent.

Dubai government safety measures, cooler weather, a growing list of tourist attractions and people's desire to travel after two years of lockdowns are among other factors making Dubai an attractive destination for visitors, Dubai Airports' chief executive Paul Griffiths said in an interview last month.

The recovery at the airport, a hub for Emirates airline, continued, with strong travel demand registered during the peak summer season as international borders reopened and coronavirus restrictions eased.

The Gulf hub benefitted from running smooth operations, compared with some major European airports that were left reeling from delays that caused widespread disruption as demand roared back after the pandemic.

London Heathrow remains in fourth place with a 4 per cent increase in capacity this month and Dallas Fort Worth is in fifth place with a 5 per cent capacity rise, according to OAG data.

Delhi moved up three places to seventh rank with a 6 per cent increase in capacity this month.

Chicago, Los Angeles and Istanbul airports have all moved down one place to eighth, ninth and 10th from Delhi moving up.

The airports which have seen their rankings rise, bringing them into the top 10 in December include Dallas Fort Worth (from 14th to fifth), Denver Airport (from 20th to sixth) and Istanbul Airport (from 19th to 10th), OAG said.

Updated: December 19, 2022, 8:46 AM