America's 10 Busiest Airports

Editor's Note: This story was originally published on October 13, 2013. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: airfare, airport, Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Ed Perkins, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, San Francisco.

(Photo: Crowded Airport via Shutterstock)

The U.S. has some of the world's busiest airports: In fact, 12 of the world's top 30 were in the U.S. in 2012. But busy airports aren't necessarily good ones, and big doesn't mean user-friendly. (None of the top-10 U.S. airports earned an Airline Service Quality award from Airports Council International.) Still, you'll probably have to cope with at least one of these monsters—and sometimes two—on an upcoming trip. So knowing helps.


This report is written from the standpoint of a visitor unfamiliar with each airport and does not include some of the special gimmicks regular travelers or residents might use. The most widely used airport-traffic data measure the sum of deplaned, enplaned, and direct-transfer passengers, and the numbers for each major airline include passengers flown by affiliated regional carriers.

Data were pulled from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and represent the 12-month period from July 2012 to June 2013.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

Ranking: Number one in the world and in the U.S., with 95.5 million passengers.

Location: Ten miles south of the city center, with extensive nearby hotel accommodations.

Major Airlines: Hartsfield-Jackson is Delta's largest hub, and Delta carries about 77 percent of the airport's total passengers. AirTran (plus Southwest) operates a much smaller hub, with 15 percent of the flights. Most big domestic airlines (except JetBlue) have a few flights. International flights are mainly on Delta and SkyTeam partners.

Layout: The field has five parallel runways, providing one of the highest capacities in the U.S. Passenger facilities consist of a series of six parallel midfield concourses plus a separate international terminal, connected by an underground people mover. Hubbing does not require passing through security again: Almost all gates and the people mover are inside a single air-side security zone.

Performance: 80 percent of departures and 82 percent of arrivals are on time, the average departure delay is 55 minutes and arrival delay is 62 minutes, and cancellations are at 0.9 percent.

Ground Transportation: Heavy-rail system Marta serves the airport with frequent trains to the city center ($2.50). The flat-rate taxi fare is $30–$32 to the city center. Numerous shuttles serve the city and surrounding areas. Rental cars are centralized in a single area, connected to the airport by a people mover.

Alternate Regional Airports: None.

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