After twenty years at the top, Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson Airport is no longer the world’s busiest hub. 2020 shook up travel across the globe, pushing Atlanta down the list and replacing it with China’s Guangzhou Bai Yun International Airport. In 2020, the airport processed 43 million travelers despite restrictions. In 2019, the airport took the #11 spot, showing a huge jump for the hub in just one year.
Guangzhou Airport is the main airport of Guangzhou, the capital of the province of Guangdong, People’s Republic of China. The airport opened in 2004, replacing a previous hub of the same name. The airport is made of two main terminals and three runways, servicing 100 destinations and maintaining a cargo capacity of 1 million tons.
The airport mostly services domestic flights across China, which explains why the hub took less of a hit than the others on the list. For the majority of its flights, Guangzhou Bai Yun International didn’t have to worry about international restrictions or locked down borders. China was the first nation to battle COVID-19 and curbed the spread with initial aggressive lockdowns. By the time we were cancelling flights, they were easing their own travel restrictions.
As for Atlanta, the airport saw a 61.2% drop in passengers during 2020, with passenger traffic at the world’s top 10 busiest airports decreasing by a combined 45.7%.
Given the cease travel that settled across the United States in 2020, we wouldn’t be surprised if next year’s statistics push Atlanta right back into the number one spot. The President of Airports Council International, Patrick Lucas, has theorized that the drop in rank is only temporary and ATL will reclaim its top spot in a matter of years. Only time will tell.