The 7 Biggest Airports In The World

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Credits: Oskar Kadaksoo/ Unsplash
  • The biggest airport in the world is not necessarily one of the world’s busiest airports. The world’s busiest airport is still Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International.
  • At 299.61 square miles (776 square kilometers), King Fahd International Airport is the largest airport in the world by total area. 
  • Orlando International Airport is the busiest airport in Florida and the seventh busiest in the United States.

Many air travelers have experienced the less-than-ideal scenario of needing to make a quick transfer to a connecting flight, only to discover that the next gate appears to be in a different county. 

Major airport

Perhaps it only feels that far away, but changing planes at a major airport can certainly help a person get their daily steps in. 

And sometimes those daily steps take the form of frantically running through some of the world’s busiest airports, such as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International.

The next time you travel by air, you may want to mentally prepare for the airports you’ll be using. Some are pleasantly compact, and some are positively sprawling. 

World’s largest airports

When you run down the list of the world’s largest airports by area, you’ll see some familiar names. You may also see a few surprises. 

That’s because an airport’s total area does not always correspond with its total passenger traffic. The biggest airport in the world is not necessarily one of the world’s busiest airports. The world’s busiest airport is still Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International.

The world’s largest airports are massive. Think Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport are big? 

Some major public airport properties easily surpass the total square mileage of large cities, although the size of airport terminals does not always align with the total acreage of the property.

Here are the world’s seven largest airports, sorted by total area.

1.King Fahd International Airport (DMM) — Dammam, Saudi Arabia 

At 299.61 square miles (776 square kilometers), King Fahd International Airport is the largest airport in the world by total area. 

For comparison, King Fahd Airport is approximately the same size as New York City, which itself contains two major airports within its city limits.

Even though it’s the world’s biggest airport, it’s not the busiest airport in Saudi Arabia (that would be King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, the main entry point for devout Muslims making the Hajj to Mecca and Medina). King Fahd International Airport’s size mainly owes to its past as an American military base.

2.Denver International Airport (DEN) — Denver, Colorado

The city of Denver is approximately 155 square miles (401 square kilometers), and one-third of that is the Denver airport. DIA, as it’s known to Coloradans, is located well to the east of central Denver, in an area that was rural farmland.

Exurban sprawl has filled in the space between the city and Denver International Airport, but Denver International Airport’s land mass is already locked in at 53.09 square miles (135.7 square kilometers). 

An elaborate system of underground trains connects the main terminal of Denver International Airport to various gate areas.

3. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) — Dallas, Texas

Situated in the Texas prairie between the major cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, DFW airport, the third largest airport in the world, may be quite familiar to American Airlines passengers.

It’s the airline’s headquarters and a major point for flight transfers and aircraft movements. These transfers give travelers a true sense of the airport’s Texas-sized sprawl.

Overall, DFW airport, one of the world’s biggest airports, comes in at 26.88 square miles (69.6 square kilometers), and it has the traffic to support that size. It’s the second-busiest airport in the United States by total passenger traffic.

4. Orlando International Airport (MCO) — Orlando, Florida

Orlando International Airport’s official airport code is MCO, and this comes from its past as McCoy Air Force Base, which operated on the property until 1975. Its total acreage of Orlando International Airport befits an Air Force base; all told, Orlando International Airport is 20.78 square miles (53.8 square kilometers).

But unlike the world’s largest airport, King Fahd International, Orlando International Airport makes a lot of use of its space. Orlando International Airport is the busiest airport in Florida and the seventh busiest in the United States.

5. Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) — Washington, D.C.

The Washington, D.C., metropolitan area has three major airports, and all three have very similar levels of passenger traffic.

Yet when it comes to total area, Washington Dulles International Airport easily bests its sibling two international airports, Ronald Reagan National Airport and Baltimore Washington International Airport.

Dulles sits on 18.75 square miles (48.6 square kilometers) of land. When the airport opened in 1962, it was in a thoroughly rural area west of Washington, D.C., which the airport serves. Today it is surrounded by booming Virginia suburbs, which makes the airport’s sheer size seem a bit less overwhelming.

6. Beijing Daxing International Airport (PKX) — Beijing, China

By total area, Beijing Daxing International Airport is the sixth-largest in the world. It sprawls over 18 square miles (46.6 square kilometers) of land. However, PKX tops the charts by another metric: terminal size.

All told, its terminal space is 7.5 million square feet (696,773 square meters), which is laid out in a star-shaped design to aid some inter-airline connections for passengers with international destinations.

In terms of total passenger traffic, PKX isn’t listed as one of the busiest in the world, but this is partly because it’s brand new; the airport opened in 2019. It is projected to become the world’s busiest airport by 2040.

7. George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) — Houston, Texas

By far the larger of Houston’s two airports, George Bush Intercontinental, formerly Houston Intercontinental Airport, has a total area of 17.19 square miles (44.5 square kilometers). 

While it trails its Texas cousin DFW in total passenger traffic, it exceeds it in international arrivals and departures.

True to its name, the commercial airport offers flights to all the world’s continents except Antarctica. It has been a major hub for United Airlines since a 2010 merger with Continental Airlines. Contained within the IAH acreage are five runways, five terminals and an on-site hotel.

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Source: How Stuff Works?

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