Tokyo Soars Back Into Busiest Airport Ranking Amid Japanese Travel Boom

Skift Take

In 2023, air travel got pretty close to pre-pandemic levels. This thrust Tokyo Haneda and Seoul’s Incheon Airport back into the spotlight.

As more passengers — nearly 8.5 billion to be exact — returned to the skies last year, one international hub made its way back into the global top 10. 

In 2023, Tokyo Haneda returned to the list of busiest airports, and that wasn’t the only surprise.

The annual report from Airports Council International (ACI) details the busiest airports across the globe. These were ranked by total passengers, international passengers, and cargo.

ACI reported a 93.8% recovery in total passengers compared to 2019.

Tokyo Jumps Into Top 10

Out of all the airports in the global top 10, Haneda had the greatest percentage increase in total passengers from 2022, at 55.1%. The Japanese hub leaped from 16th place to 5th in just a year.

Japan ended 2023 with a record number of visitors in December, capping off a year in which its tourism industry made a significant recovery from the pandemic. The country had 2.73 million visitors in December 2023 alone — roughly 8% higher than 2019 levels.

However, the country’s rising popularity has led to fears about ‘overtourism.’ Some tour operators have been spreading tourists out to less visited areas for the famous cherry blossom season.

Elsewhere, U.S. airports — including Denver, Los Angeles, and Chicago O’Hare — made up half of the top 10. Other than Haneda, every location in the top 10 also made the cut in 2022. 

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International remained the busiest hub overall, but there was a twist. Dubai International trailed the Georgia gateway, overtaking Dallas Fort Worth with its nearly 87 million passengers in 2023.

Total Passengers

Airport 2023 Ranking 2022 Ranking % Change
Atlanta, USA (ATL) 1 1 11.7
Dubai, UAE (DXB) 2 5 31.7
Dallas Fort Worth, USA (DFW) 3 2 11.4
London, UK (LHR) 4 8 28.5
Tokyo, Japan (HND) 5 16 55.1
Denver, USA (DEN) 6 3 12.3
Istanbul, Turkiye (IST) 7 7 18.3
Los Angeles, USA (LAX) 8 6 13.8
Chicago, USA (ORD) 9 4 8.1
New Delhi, India (DEL) 10 9 21.4
Source: ACI

Dubai didn’t just dominate with total passengers. It ranked first (again) for international travelers, followed by London Heathrow. The British airport reported its busiest-ever December last year, even surpassing its pre-pandemic highs.

Seoul’s International Surge

Tokyo wasn’t the only outlier in 2023. Seoul’s Incheon International Airport jumped from 32nd in 2022 to 7th on the list for international passengers. The South Korean hub enjoyed a spectacular 213% rise in international traffic year-on-year.

International Passengers

Airport 2023 Ranking 2022 Ranking % Change
Dubai, UAE (DXB) 1 1 31.7
London, UK (LHR) 2 2 28.6
Amsterdam, Netherlands (AMS) 3 3 17.9
Paris, France (CDG) 4 4 18.6
Singapore (SIN) 5 9 83.1
Istanbul, Turkiye (IST) 6 5 20
Seoul, Korea (ICN) 7 32 212.9
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) 8 6 20.8
Doha, Qatar (DOH) 9 8 28.5
Madrid, Spain (MAD) 10 7 20.9
Source: ACI

The top airports for cargo traffic remained largely unchanged, despite a 3.5% dip in overall cargo volume. Hong Kong and Memphis stayed steady as the top pair for air freight in 2023.

ACI attributed the decline to “ongoing geopolitical tensions and disruptions to global trade and supply chains.”

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