The World’s New Busiest Airport Is Not What (or Where) You’d Expect

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Photo: Courtesy of @oliviaculpo

For analysts in the aviation industry, the data does not make happy reading. According to OAG figures, global flight numbers were down 64.5%, 68.6%, and 63.8% year-on-year for April, May, and June respectively, while flights in major markets like Germany, Singapore, and the UK were down 90% or more.

Recovery is steady but slow, and the week beginning August 3 still recorded a year-on-year drop of 47.3%. With so many terminals still filled with grounded planes, there is now a new and somewhat unexpected name at the top of the busiest airport rankings.

The world’s new busiest airport is *drum roll, please*… Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport, Texas. Widely known as DFW, the hub has now hosted more flights than any other in the months of May, June, and July, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration. Home to the world’s most valuable sports team (the Dallas Cowboys) and the eponymous sitcom, Dallas is certainly no village — but it’s not even the largest city in Texas, let alone America or the world.

Photo: Courtesy of Engineering News Record

Despite still experiencing a large drop in flights, DFW seems to owe its unusual industry to American Airlines, which is headquartered at the airport. With long, nonstop flights a risk in the era of coronavirus, connecting flights are the order of the day, and American Airlines is pushing a good deal of them through Dallas.

“COVID-19 has forced us to reevaluate our network,” said the airline’s chief revenue officer Vasu Rajah in a statement. “We will have a significantly smaller international network in the year ahead, but we are using this opportunity to hit reset and create a network using the strength of our strategic hubs.”

For the last two decades, fellow Deep South airport Atlanta International has consistently fielded more passengers per year than any other hub the world over — more than 100 million people touched down or took off from its runways in 2019. Behind Atlanta, there’s generally a more predictable selection of megacities, and airports in Beijing, Dubai, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Chicago, London, Hong Kong, and Paris filled out the top 10 last year. DFW should enjoy its time in the top spot because it is not expected to last long.

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