Dubai ranks as world's busiest international airport for 10th year in a row

DXB was followed by hubs in London, Amsterdam, Paris and Singapore in the top five for 2023

Dubai International Airport handled 86.9 million passengers in 2023, up 31.7 per cent on the previous year. Photo: Dubai Airports
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Dubai International Airport (DXB) has retained its crown as the world's busiest international hub for passengers for a 10th consecutive year, as long-haul travel demand continues to boom, preliminary data by the Airports Council International (ACI) showed.

London Heathrow, Amsterdam's Schiphol, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Singapore's Changi rounded off the top-five busiest hubs for international air traffic in 2023, the trade association for airports – representing more than 2,000 of them worldwide – reported on Monday.

“DXB is proud to uphold its status as the world's foremost international airport for an unparalleled 10 years,” Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports, said.

“As we look ahead, our focus remains clear. We are determined to maintain DXB's dominant position for the next decade and beyond. Through sustained collaboration and innovation, we are poised to shape the future of global aviation.”

DXB, which does not have a domestic market, handled 86.9 million passengers in 2023, a 31.7 per cent increase on the previous year.

“Global air travel in 2023 was chiefly fuelled by the international segment, propelled by several factors,” said Luis Felipe de Oliveira, director general at ACI World. “Among these were the anticipated benefits from China's reopening and a growing inclination towards travel, despite macroeconomic conditions.”

This year, Dubai expects to receive 88.8 million passengers, a prediction revised upwards in February from its November forecast of 88.2 million. That would put it within sight of its previous record of 89.1 million passengers in 2018.

DXB also expects its annual passenger traffic to reach 93.8 million in 2025 and “hopefully we'll get the magic 100 million number not long after”, Mr Griffiths told The National in February.

This growth forecast comes as DXB's home airlines start to take delivery of wide-body aircraft and as more foreign airlines launch flights to the major Gulf hub.

In terms of overall passenger numbers, which includes domestic and international traffic, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport retained top spot in the rankings in 2023 with 104.6 million passengers, ACI World reported.

It was followed by Dubai for the first time, ACI data showing that DXB overtook Dallas/Fort Worth in 2023. DXB's was fifth in 2022 and fourth in 2019 before the Covid pandemic, underscoring the emirate's focus on further expanding its aviation sector.

“While perennial leaders from the US continue to dominate the top 10 busiest airports for passengers, notably Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, retaining its number one position, there are notable shifts. Dubai International Airport jumped to second rank for the first time,” Mr de Oliveira said.

Other major shifts include Tokyo Haneda International Airport leaping to fifth place from 16th in 2022, making it the biggest mover in the top 10.

The strength of Istanbul and New Delhi airports kept them in the top 10 at seventh and 10th place respectively, marking significant progress for both.

Aviation in India is growing rapidly, with Air India and IndiGo placing mega orders for hundreds of aircraft from Boeing and Airbus and the government investing in the country’s more than 140 airports.

ACI World said in its report that the shifts in global airport rankings show “the strengthening of Asia-Pacific and Middle East hubs alongside perennial US leaders”.

Five of the airports ranked in the top 10 for total passenger traffic are in the US.

Global passenger traffic

Global total passenger traffic for 2023 was nearly 8.5 billion, an increase of 27.2 per cent from 2022 and up 93.8 per cent from pre-pandemic levels in 2019, according to ACI’s preliminary data.

The domestic air travel market grew by 20.2 per cent year-on-year in 2023, a recovery of 96.8 per cent from the numbers recorded in 2019. Meanwhile, international passenger traffic grew 36.5 per cent, or 90.4 per cent of its pre-pandemic level, aiding the aviation industry's recovery and expansion.

There is “good reason” to be optimistic about the industry’s prospects in 2024 as airlines accelerate investments in decarbonisation and passenger demand remains resilient in the face of geopolitical and economic uncertainties, Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association, said in a report earlier this month.

“It is critical that politicians resist the temptation of cash grabs with new taxes that could destabilise this positive trajectory and make travel more expensive,” he said at the time.

Air cargo volumes slide

Air freight volumes dropped an estimated 3.1 per cent year-on-year last year, reaching nearly 113 million metric tonnes, according to ACI data. This comes amid continuing geopolitical tensions and disruptions to global trade and supply chains, the report said.

Hong Kong International Airport topped the charts for air cargo volumes, followed by Memphis and Shanghai Pudong. Anchorage ranked fourth, followed by Incheon in fifth place.

Updated: April 15, 2024, 5:36 PM