World’s busiest airport? Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson on top yet again

World's busiest airport? Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson on top yet again

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The “World’s Busiest Airport” title for 2018 will have a familiar ring to it.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is forecast to take that title yet again for 2018, marking the 21st consecutive year that the airport has hosted more passengers than any other airport on the planet.

That’s according to the preliminary full-year passenger numbers for 2018 released Wednesday by the Airports Council International (ACI) trade group. Though preliminary, the rankings typically do not change between the preliminary count and the “final” numbers that are confirmed later in the year.

The top three for 2018 remained unchanged from the previous year, with Atlanta’s passenger count of 107.4 million passengers finishing ahead of No. 2 Beijing Capital and third-place Dubai.

Beyond that, there was a small shakeup in the top five, with Los Angeles (LAX) moving past Tokyo Haneda to take fourth place. That swap between LAX and Haneda was the only year-over-year change among the top 11 airports.

USA TODAY TRAVELAtlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Guide

The biggest change among the 20 busiest airports was a surge by New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, which climbed to No. 12 after finishing 16th in 2017.

Among U.S. airports, Chicago was the world’s sixth-busiest in 2018 with 83.3 million passengers while Dallas/Fort Worth finished 15th with 69.1 million. That was a 3 percent gain for DFW, but it was surpassed by three faster-growing airports (New Delhi; Guangzhou, China; and Frankfurt, Germany). Denver was the only other U.S. airport in the top 20, its passenger count of 64.5 million enough to hold on to the No. 20 spot for the second year in a row.

As for Atlanta, not only did it hold on to the top ranking, but it also counted more than 100 million passengers for the fourth year in a row. Atlanta became the first airport in the world to break that threshold in 2015, when it processed 101.5 million passengers.

This year, however, another airport also cracked the 100-million passenger mark. Passenger traffic at No. 2 Beijing Capital grew 5.4 percent year-over-year, pushing that airport’s full-year total to 100,983,290, according to the ACI numbers.

TODAY IN THE SKY: Chicago overtakes Atlanta as USA’s busiest airport … sort of

However, one airport may have a case to make for a spilt title.

Data in from the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this year showed that Chicago O’Hare had actually moved past Atlanta in “aircraft movements,” another count of how busy an airport is.

“Movements” refers to the number of takeoffs and landings at an airport. Atlanta had briefly lost the title for most movements to Chicago O’Hare in 2014, but surged back past its Illinois rival in 2015 and held it until O’Hare moved back atop for 2018.

While both the “passengers” and “movements” counts are legitimate, it’s the passenger tally that is the traditional barometer for determining the “busiest airports.”

Atlanta, of course, is the busiest airport for Delta Air Lines, which operates a massive connecting hub there.    

IN PHOTOS: Behind the scenes at Delta Air Lines

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