Where are the largest airports in the world?

Great question! Airports tend to be huge pieces of infrastructure occupying a considerable amount of terrain. London Heathrow, the busiest airport in Europe and the second in the world, receives 78 million passengers per year, a figure that looks to grow steadily every year in the foreseeable future. As you can imagine, providing these to such a huge number of passengers takes up a lot of space. So when we talk about the biggest airports in the world, we need to define them by the area that they cover in square kilometres. Some airports need fewer kilometres to provide their services and others use a massive amount of space (number one will surprise you, no doubt about that).  

We will list the top 10 biggest airports in the world. The only European entry comes in at number 10, and, surprisingly, it’s not London Heathrow.

 

10. Paris Charles De Gaulle, 32,37 km2

Charles De Gaulle Terminal 1, the 10th biggest airport in the world

Serving the French capital, this airport takes up a big chunk of land close to the city. For Parisian standards, the city is massive, the meagre 40 – 50 minutes that it takes you to go from some parts of the centre to the airport with the RER is an acceptable amount of time. The Air France - KLM alliance use this airport as one of their main hubs.

 

9. Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, 32,40 km2

Thailand has one of the biggest airports in the world

Beating Charles de Gaulle by only 0.3 km2, the Thai airport is pretty welcoming but it may take you up to two hours to reach the city centre from there (depending on the traffic). However, if you’re travelling around Thailand, we can assure you that if you find yourself stuck in traffic when arriving, the country will make up for it with stunning views and great food!

 

8. Cairo International Airport, 36,25 km2

The biggest airports in the world: Cairo is number eight

Egypt’s main international airport takes the eight spot in our list. The airport was developed in the same site wherein the United States built Payne Airfield to serve the allied forces during the Second World War. Functioning as EgyptAir’s main hub, it greets almost 15 million passengers per year. How far is it located from the pyramids you ask? We thought so, in short, it will take around two hours to drive from the airport to the Giza Necropolis complex.

 

7. Shanghai Pudong International Airport, 39,88 km2

Shangai has the 7th biggest airport in the world

The world’s largest city does not have the airport to match, at least in size that is. The city is known for its transportation systems, and the airport functions spectacularly. By serving a city of 24 million residents, it welcomes the grand total of 74 million passengers per year. It does so with five runways that are all longer than three kilometres. For the people interested in architecture, the interiors of terminal one are marvellous.

 

6. Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport, 44,51 km2

The first North American airport on our list. Even though it is the 6th biggest airport in the world, it’s not even the biggest nor most congested airport in Texas. I guess it’s true that saying about how big things are in the lone-star State, Houston’s airport consists of almost half a centenary of square kilometres.

 

5. Washington Dulles International Airport, 48,56 km2

Biggest airports in the world by size: Washington Dulles

Ok, for the sake of transparency, we must tell you that airports in the U.S.A. make up the rest of the list, excluding the number one spot! However, it’s the 4th and last time that an airport serving a capital city takes a spot in the countdown. It takes you 45 minutes minimum to get from the airport to downtown Washington D.C.

 

4. Orlando International Airport, 53,83 km2

Stepping it up a notch, it’s Florida’s main international airport. With a total of four runways, 47 million passengers pass by each year. It’s surprising to see this airport on the list because no major carrier uses it as a hub. The airfield is just 20 minutes away from the city and the famous amusement parks.

 

3. Texas Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, 69,63 km2

Which are the biggest airports in the world? Dallas Fort Worth

An increase of more than 15 square kilometres sees Dallas’ international airport, the second from Texas, take the number three spot in the podium. The airport is almost exactly half the size of Cardiff, for comparison. With seven operational runways, the airport provides its services to just shy of 70 million passengers. That’s 10 million passengers per runway and one million passengers per square kilometre. Be careful though! The airport is only rated 3.7 out of 5 stars possible on Google!

 

2. Denver International Airport, 135,71 km2

Denver is the second biggest airport in the world

*Picture by Ashleyniblock, the aereal picture was take from a flight from San Francisco to Washington.

Curiously, you can almost fit two Dallas/Fort Worth airports into the space occupied by Denver International Airport. That’s how big it is. It’s the biggest in the U.S.A. and no one knows exactly why it was necessary to build such a massive airport. As one would expect, there’s a crazy conspiracy theory out there that explains the reason: the airfield doubles as a huge bunker from where a lot of shady organisations operate! 65 million passengers use the airport’s Terminal, half of whom fly with United Airlines when they do so. Denver is known as the mile-high city because, you guessed it, it’s altitude is 1,609 kilometres. Yes, that’s more than a mile. When taking off from Denver, you’re just a short distance away from cruising altitude! That short distance being around nine kilometres.

 

Drumrolls…

 

1. Dammam, King Fahd International Airport, 776,00 km2!

Dammam King Fahd Airport, the biggest in the world

* Picture by Herbst Derek, you can see a cargo Boeing 747 in the middle of the incredibly vast airport.

Yes, it is a tad unbelievable that the largest airport in the world, located in Saudi Arabia, is almost 6 times as big as the second biggest airport. This massive piece of infrastructure is even bigger than Saudi Arabia’s neighbouring country: Bahrain. The small island in the Persian Gulf is just 765,30 km2. To give you some richer perspective, these are some cities that are smaller than the airport itself: Amsterdam, Birmingham, and Marseille. How do they compare? Well, you could fit the three of them inside the area of the gargantuan airfield. Impressive, we know!

 

More surprisingly, the airport only has two runways and sees a fairly low total of visitors go by. At 9,6 million passengers, it’s not even close to being one of the busiest airports in the world.

 

Why is King Fahd International Airport (DMM) so big?

No one really knows! It might have been a complete miscalculation of the potential of the airport. As one user of airliners.net set out to explain, construction on DMM started a long time ago, when nearby Dhahran, DMM's predecessor, was a lot busier. For some time, the likes of Korean Air, Thai, Singapore Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, BA, Air France, Austrian, Alitalia, KLM, Lufthansa and Turkish, to name a few,  flew out of DHA. With the opening of the causeway that connects Saudi Arabia with Bahrein and the fact that international airlines prefer to schedule stepovers in Bahrein (without adding any time to the flight and where passengers can have a drink), the biggest airport in the world lost a considerable amount of international air traffic.
 


There is a caveat regarding its size, the official website of the airport states that the utilised area consists of only 36,75 km2. It wouldn’t even make it to the top 5! However, the area of the property reaches the enormous size of 776,00 km2. With a huge terminal building made up of 6 stories and a massive mosque atop the parking lot, the airport is still an impressive feat of civil engineering and architecture.

Before we go, we know that you’ll have more questions, so we’ll pre-emptively try to answer them:
 

Which are the largest airports in Europe?

You know that Charles de Gaulle is the largest but we will also give you the top 5:
 

  1. Paris Charles de Gaulle 32,3 km2
  2. Madrid-Barajas Airport, 30.5 km2
  3. Rome Leonardo Da Vinci International, 29 km2
  4. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, 27,9 km2
  5. Frankfurt Airport, 23 km2

 

No airport in the UK makes the list. We do know that Heathrow is the busiest airport in Europe, second busiest in the world and the biggest one in the UK, so what would be its position on the list above?

9. London Heathrow, 12,27 km2

 

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Which airports are the largest in the United States?

Across the pond, you find the following top 5, although you can figure out by looking at the list above.

 

  1. Denver International Airport, 135,71 km2
  2. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, 69,63 km2
  3. Orlando International Airport, 53,83 km2
  4. Washington Dulles International Airport, 48,56 km2
  5. Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport, 44,51 km2

 

Because you already knew this, we’ll throw in an extra fun fact: the busiest airport in the U.S., Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International, doesn’t even make it to the top 10 of biggest airports in the country!
 



So! To sum it up, and as we say goodbye, these are the biggest airports in the world per surface area:

 

  1. Dammam,  King Fahd International Airport, 776,00 km2
  2. Denver International Airport, 135,71 km2
  3. Texas Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, 69,63 km2
  4. Orlando International Airport, 53,83 km2
  5. Washington Dulles International Airport, 48,56 km2
  6. Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport, 44,51 km2
  7. Shanghai Pudong International Airport, 39,88 km2
  8. Cairo International Airport, 36,25 km2
  9. Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, 32,40 km2
  10. Paris Charles De Gaulle, 32,37 km2

 

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