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From Beijing to Cairo: 10 Largest Airports in the World

largest airports in the world

Airports get a bad rap. Though they’re an essential part of every traveler’s life, going through one can be a hassle. But, negative associations aside, you have to admit, they’re a pretty impressive piece of infrastructure.

Airports are a miniature world of their own, filled with shops, hotels, and spas. Some of the world’s busiest airports are so large they even have their own postal code! In short, an airport is so much more than a gateway to your next destination.

If you’re wondering where to catch your next flight, stick around for this comprehensive breakdown of the largest airports in the world!

Airports 101

Airports

In the US alone, over 2,900,000 passengers fly in and out of various airports every single day. To handle such a huge number of people, airports have to work around the clock like a well-oiled machine.

At the top, you have airport management. They’re in charge of coordinating all day-to-day tasks that keep the airport functioning. Thousands of Transportation Security Officers screen passengers and patrol entrances and exits.

Then you have administrative agents checking tickets, providing information, or handling clients. Altogether, you’re looking at 19,000 to a whopping 63,000 employees to run the average airport!

But that’s not all. Airports also function as bases for commercial aircraft. As such, they need plenty of space to house the planes, as well as resources for routine maintenance. To get the planes back into the air, they need to supply them with fuel and runways for take-off.

In fact, runways are one of the biggest reasons airports are so large. Most planes need to reach speeds of between 150 to 180 mph to generate enough force to negate their weight. And the larger the plane, the longer it takes to achieve the speeds necessary for lift-off. So, airport runways have to be between 8,000 and 13,000 feet long to allow aircraft to ascend into the skies.

When you consider that, it’s no wonder it costs around $200 million just to build an airport and a few million more to maintain!

10 Largest Airports in the World

As established, airports need a lot of space and human resources to coordinate take-offs safely. But, if you’ve ever set foot at an airport, you know they also devote a bulk of their size to other amenities.

Even the smallest commercial airport has plenty of restaurants, boutiques, and souvenir stores. These services keep passengers entertained while they wait for their next flight.

But some airports take things to the next level by including hotels, churches, and even a solar panel grid on their premises! As expected, this means some of them are double or even triple the size of a small city!

To give you an idea of how outrageously big airports can get, take a look at the largest airports in the world, measured in square miles.

1. King Fahd’s International Airport (Saudi Arabia)

Fahd

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All US natives know how big American airports can get. Yet, Saudi Arabia actually managed to make an airline hub larger than anything the US has to offer.

Covering a total of 300 square miles, King Fahd’s International airport is the largest in the world. This airport has around 37 different airlines flying in and out of its airspace. It also sees around

12 million passengers every year. What’s more, it comes outfitted with a car park and a 177,000 sq. ft royal terminal reserved for the Saudi royal family.

However, the airport doesn’t have much traffic despite its enormous size. In fact, it doesn’t even rank among the 50 busiest airports in the world. Nevertheless, based on landmass alone, this airport has to take the number 1 spot!

2. Denver International Airport (USA)

Denver

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The US may not be number one on this list, but it did manage to snag the runner-up position! Denver International Airport is not only the largest airport in America. It’s also the second biggest airport in the world! Located within driving distance of downtown Denver, it takes up a massive 52.4 square miles!

Ever since its opening in 1995, the airport has offered flights to over 215 destinations all over the globe. But what makes this airport stand out among the others is the many conspiracy theories surrounding it. Denver International has some pretty unusual airport air lining the terminal walls.

For years, passengers have speculated that these strange images point to the airport hiding a big secret. Currently, the most popular theories include everything from underground military bunkers to evil secret societies. But none of these nasty rumors seem to affect business. Over 35 million travelers regularly pass through its terminal gates, and that number continues to rise year after year.

3. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (USA)

Dallas

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The saying goes that everything is bigger in Texas. Therefore it’s not surprising that the third largest airport in the world is located in the Lone Star state. In fact, Dallas/Fort Worth International is so huge that the Dallas postal service considers the airport a separate city. They even gave it its own ZIP code!

The airport spans a massive 28 square miles. Furthermore, passengers can choose to travel to over 260 destinations worldwide. Besides extensive travel options, the airport is also famous for the Founders’ Plaza, an observation park dedicated to the airport’s founders. Passengers can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire airfield while waiting for their next flight.

4. Orlando International Airport (USA)

Orlando

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You have to travel from Texas to Florida to discover the fourth largest airport in the world. Opened in 1981, the Orlando International Airport covers around 20.78 square miles. It has flights to over 135 destinations worldwide. What’s more, four different airlines use it as their base of operations. These include Silver Airways, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, and Spirit Airlines.

The airline hub is one of the few in the world with an on-site Hyatt Regency hotel. Located near the East Atrium side, the hotel has a rooftop pool directly overlooking the airstrip.

But the best part about the airport is that it’s only 20 minutes away from Orlando’s most prominent attraction—Disneyworld! The iconic theme park had around 7 million visitors in 2019 alone! So it’s not surprising that the Orlando airport is the busiest in the US. Every year, about 50 million passengers use it to travel across the globe!

5. Washington Dulles International Airport (USA)

Washington

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The oldest airport on this list, Washington Dulles International Airport, opened in 1962. It takes up 18.75 square miles and offers non-stop flights to over 125 destinations worldwide.

Compared to the other airports mentioned on this list, it’s not as busy. However, it still sees an impressive 24 million passengers every year.

6. Beijing Daxing International Airport (China)

Beijing

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It’s finally time to step out of the US to find the sixth largest airport in the world. As its name suggests, Beijing Daxing International Airport is located in the Chinese capital of Beijing.

The airport opened very recently, in 2019. Yet, in just three years, it managed to become one of the busiest in the world. This airline hub routinely handles a whopping 40 million passengers and offers flights to over 112 destinations. It also spans an impressive 18 square miles.

However, its most significant feature is the eco-friendly infrastructure. This airline hub has a solar panel grid, a water management pump, and a waste recovery system. All these features help minimize the airport’s carbon footprint.

But that’s not all. The Chinese government recently announced that its goal is to expand the airport so that by 2040, it can hold over 100 million passengers.

7. George Bush Intercontinental Airport (USA)

George

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It’s back to the US for the seventh-largest airport in the world. The George Bush Intercontinental Airport was originally called Houston Intercontinental Airport. However, the US government renamed it in 1997 when George H.W. Bush became president.

The airport covers around 17.19 square miles of land, just north of Downtown Houston. Though it has many international flights, it’s still better known for domestic travel.

8. Shanghai Pudong International (China)

Shanghai

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Shanghai has two main airports — Hongqiao Airport and Pudong International. However, out of the two, Pudong is more famous for two reasons. First, it’s one of the largest airports in the world, taking up around 15.40 square miles.

Second, it’s one of the busiest airports when it comes to transporting commercial goods. The airport handles a staggering 3.1 million tons of cargo per year.

9. Cairo International (Egypt)

Cairo

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The ninth entry on this list is surprisingly neither American nor Chinese! Though it spans just 14 square miles, Cairo International is Egypt’s largest airport. Like Washington Dulles, Cairo International is also fairly old. It opened way back in 1963 after the government repurposed an old WWII American airbase to serve commercial planes.

Since then, it’s become a bustling airline hub, which sees roughly 14 million passengers each year.

10. Suvarnabhumi International (Thailand)

Suvarnabhumi

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Despite landing on the tenth spot, Suvarnabhumi International is one of the largest airports in the world. Located in Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand, the airport spans an impressive 12.5 square miles. Though it’s smaller in size than other entries on this list, it still has a lot of traffic.

This airport handles over 45 million passengers every year, making it the eleventh busiest in all of Asia. Currently, it also serves as a regional gateway for foreign carriers transporting goods between Asia, Australia, Europe, and Africa.

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