ATL airport busiest, but others lead in international traffic, cargo

The Atlanta airport is the world’s busiest based on passenger and flight counts, but others remain ahead in international traffic and cargo, according to a new report.

Airports Council International, a global trade association, on Friday released its world airport traffic report, with final rankings based on 2015 traffic.

Hartsfield-Jackson International handled a record 101.5 million passengers last year, keeping it No. 1 in the world, as shown in earlier rankings. It also reclaimed its position from Chicago O’Hare as the airport with the most flights in the world, with more than 882,000 in 2015.

Dubai, in the United Arab Emerates, was the busiest airport in the world based on international passenger counts, followed by London Heathrow and Hong Kong.

Hong Kong and Memphis were the top two airports in the world based on cargo tonnage, with Hong Kong handling the most international cargo and Memphis handling the most domestic cargo.

Memphis is the main air hub for overnight shipping giant FedEx.

China and India are both continuing to grow, with India “poised to be one of the largest aviation markets in the world in the years to come,” according to Airports Council International.

Airports and city boosters like to tout high rankings for travel volume. But there can be downsides as well in the form of long lines and delays. Hartsfield-Jackson earlier this year decided to downplay the “world’s busiest” terminology, changing its tagline to the “world’s most traveled airport.”

Hartsfield-Jackson continues to grow, and this year started a $6 billion renovation and expansion plan to modernize the terminal and eventually add a Concourse G and a sixth runway, a terminal hotel and other projects.

The growth of large hubs and consolidation in the industry can mean less service for smaller markets.

Angela Gittens, a former Hartsfield-Jackson manager who is Airports Council International’s director general, noted in a written statement that “the downside of airline capacity shifts towards major connecting hubs in certain markets is that smaller regional airports lose out on traffic with a reduction in nonstop destinations between cities.”

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