Airports Under the Tyranny of COVID-19 2022.12.14

The COVID-19 pandemic began its devastating sweep across the world in 2020. Governments adopted border controls or other measures to reduce the number of visitors to their countries in order to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. This resulted in record low passenger traffic and flights in airports everywhere. Airports Council International (ACI) indicated that in 2021 global airport passenger traffic reached almost 4.5 billion, but the figure is only 50% or less compared with 2019. To return to regular passenger traffic would likely require a considerable amount of time and effort.

In terms of passenger traffic, the five busiest airports in 2021 were all located in the U.S. The busiest was HartsfieldJackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), which served 75,704,760 passengers, followed by Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW; 62,465,756), Denver International Airport (DEN; 58,828,552), O'Hare International Airport in Chicago (ORD; 54,020,399), and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX; 48,007,284). Compared with 2019, passenger traffic figures in 2021 were much lower, as indicated in the diagram. Except for ATL and LAX in the U.S., which remained among the top five busiest airports in 2021, several airports previously ranked in the top five failed to make the list. Examples include Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) in China, Dubai International Airport (DXB) in the U.A.E., and Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) in Japan. Ranked 36th in the world, Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) served 48,689,372 passengers that year, but its passenger traffic dropped to 909,012 in 2021, down 98% from 2019.

The pandemic influenced government policies and altered how people travel. The amount of passenger traffic also deeply affected airport operations. As countries begin to relax COVID-19-related border control in the future, international flights and tourism will start to pick up. Next year, which airports will top the chart and how they will adapt to the growing traffic remain to be seen.