Transportation

The Most Congested Airports In the United States

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Airports are some of the worst places to travel through, yet they themselves are essential to travel in the United States. Tens of millions of flights happen each year, and tens of millions of people find themselves waiting in cramped airports looking for a table to scram down a $18 salad from a vending machine. Today, we’re taking a look at some of the most congested airports in the United States, specifically how crowded they are.

To compile this list, 24/7 Wall Street used data from the FAA, as posted on Wikipedia. The data represents the total number of passengers during 2022. Let’s get started.

10. Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Charlotte is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, and its airport is going through some growing pains.

Charlotte, the Queen City, is rapidly growing, and its airport is undergoing major construction efforts. The city earns its spot as one of the major airports in the United States primarily because it’s a major American Airlines (NASDAQ: AAL) hub. Currently, around 90% of all flights from Charlotte are American Airlines, and it’s known as a “fortress hub” for Americans, which essentially just means it has a monopoly on the airport. Another example would be Delta (NYSE: DAL) in Atlanta. In 2021, Charlotte shot up to the 6th busiest airport in the United States, but it didn’t hold its higher spot for long.

  • Metro Area: Charlotte
  • Passenger Traffic (2022): 47,758,605
  • IATA Code: CLT

9. Orlando International Airport

Florida | Orlando, Florida, USA Downtown Drone Skyline Aerial
Orlando used to be Florida’s busiest airport but was surpassed by Miami by only 500,000 people in 2022.

Historically, Florida’s busiest airport has been Orlando, but in 2022, it dropped a spot behind Miami. Still, Orlando is extremely busy and with attractions like Disney World and Universal, it will stay busy for a long time to come. Orlando operates as a hub for a few airlines, including Silver Airways, Avelo Airlines, JetBlue (NASDAQ: JBLU), Southwest (NYSE: LUV), and Spirit. Its IATA Code, MCO, doesn’t quite fit with its name (like the other airports). This is because it is referencing its former name, McCoy Airforce Base, despite it being closed in 1975 after the Vietnam War.

  • Metro Area: Orlando
  • Passenger Traffic (2022): 50,178,499
  • IATA Code: MCO

9. Miami International Airport

Miami acts as a hub city for American Airlines and is a major entrance point to Central and South America.

Miami is an important regional airport, but it also acts as a gateway into Latin America for much of the United States. Recently, Miami surpassed Orlando as the busiest airport in Florida. Currently, Miami and Orlando are neck and neck with passenger counts, and subsequent years could mean that either one overtakes the other. Additionally, Miami recently surpassed JFK as the busiest U.S. gateway for international passengers and also operates as one of the busiest cargo ports in the U.S.

  • Metro Area: Miami
  • Passenger Traffic (2022): 50,684,396
  • IATA Code: MIA

7. Harry Reid International Airport

 

Previously known as McCarran International Airport, it was renamed to Harry Reid International Airport in 2021.

Las Vegas’ primary airport is known as Harry Reid International Airport, but this is a recent change. It was the McCarran International Airport until 2021 when it was voted to change the name due to Pat McCarran’s legacy being associated with anti-Semitism and racism. Ten months into the year after the vote, it was passed and named after the Nevada senator who had just retired, Harry Reid.

  • Metro Area: Las Vegas
  • Passenger Traffic (2022): 52,667,741
  • IATA Code: LAS

6. John F. Kennedy International Airport

JFK is the busiest of the three airports in the NYC metro area.

New York has three airports within its metro area: John F. Kennedy (usually shortened to JFK), LaGuardia, an airport in Queens, and Newark Liberty International, an airport located in New Jersey across the river. All three airports are in the top 20 busiest in the United States. Between them all, JFK operates primarily as an international hub and is known for long-haul flights to the rest of the world. In fact, over 90 airlines fly out of JFK, extending out to all six (inhabited) continents. It’s recognized as one of the busiest international air passenger gateways into North America.

  • Metro Area: New York
  • Passenger Traffic (2022): 55,175,249
  • IATA Code: JFK

5. Los Angeles International Airport

The Los Angeles International Airport is often colloquially shortened to its code, “LAX”.

The Los Angeles International Airport is a major airport in California and the primary airport for the greater Los Angeles area. It’s the largest and busiest airport along the West Coast of the United States and is known as a connection point into East Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia, and more. There are a few other airports in the region, including Burbank, John Wayne (Orange County), and Long Beach.

  • Metro Area: Los Angeles
  • Passenger Traffic (2022): 65,924,298
  • IATA Code: LAX

4. O’Hare International Airport

Chicago O’Hare is a major midwestern hub for American and United Airlines.
  • Metro Area: Chicago
  • Passenger Traffic (2022): 68,340,619
  • IATA Code: ORD

Chicago has always been a transportation hub for the United States, first for rail and now for the air. It serves the major urban area of Chicago and was originally built for military transports during WWII. It was named after the first U.S. Navy aviator to receive a Medal of Honor, Edward O’Hare. Its initial construction was extremely innovative and included things like concourses, jet bridges, and more, establishing itself as a key player for decades after.

3. Denver International Airport

The Denver Airport is known for its conspiracy theories and ghost tales.

Few airports have a cult following like Denver International. The airport is a major hub due to its central location in the United States, acting as a stopping point for connecting flights across the country (both east to west and north to south). Unique to Denver, however, are the conspiracies that surround it. There are multiple conspiracy theories, usually involving speculations about secret underground bunkers, alleged ties to the Illuminati, and mysterious artwork with hidden messages. Denver sometimes plays into these theories, but nothing overt has ever been proven.

  • Metro Area: Denver
  • Passenger Traffic (2022): 69,286,461
  • IATA Code: DEN

2. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

The DFW Airport is a mega-hub for multiple airlines, primarily American.

Dallas/Fort Worth (usually DFW) is one of the largest airports in the United States (only behind Denver in terms of acreage). It was the second busiest by passenger travel in 2022 and is recognized as the third-busiest globally in terms of aircraft movement. Incredibly, DFW has its own zip code (75261) and its own city designation (DFW Airport, Texas). Additionally, DFW has its own designated police, firefighters station, and medical services. It used to have its own internal emergency room, but it closed some time back. It also has more nonstop destinations than any airport in North America, and every major city in the Continental U.S. is within a four-hour flight.

  • Metro Area: Dallas-Fort Worth
  • Passenger Traffic (2022): 73,362,946
  • IATA Code: DFW

1. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

The busiest airport in the United States and the world is Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta.

No airport in the world is as pivotal as Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The Atlanta Airport (as it’s often called) is about 10 miles away from Downtown Atlanta and covers 4,700 acres. It has five parallel runways, all of which are essential to its status as the busiest airport by passenger traffic. In 2022, it had over 20 million more passengers than its closest domestic competitor, DFW. Additionally, Atlanta has held its title since 1998. It was originally named after two of Atlanta’s mayors, William B. Hartsfield and Maynard Jackson. Currently, it acts as the hub for Delta Air Lines. Delta’s headquarters in Atlanta is also the world’s largest airline hub. Besides Delta, a few budget airlines operate major lines out of Atlanta, including Frontier and Southwest.

  • Metro Area: Atlanta
  • Passenger Traffic (2022): 93,699,630
  • IATA Code: ATL

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