Which are the largest airports in the USA? As we know, US airports are on average much bigger than those in other countries. So we are talking about larger spaces with more gates, as well as very high numbers of people passing through both daily and annually. The most recent studies show that the busiest airport in the world is indeed in the USA: the airport in question is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, although it is not actually in the top ten biggest airports in the USA as regards surface area. To get an idea of the difference in size between European airports and the US airports listed below, the largest airport in Europe is Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, which covers a surface area of about 32 square kilometres, while the busiest airport is Heathrow airport in London, with over 80 million passengers a year.
Let’s take a look now at the top ten biggest airports in the USA.
The biggest airports in the USA
1- Denver International Airport, Colorado – 135 square kilometres
Covering a surface area of 135 square kilometres, Denver International Airport is the third largest airport in the world (the largest is King Fahd International Airport in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, with an astonishing 776 square kilometres of surface area). Extending over 135 square kilometres, Denver airport is by far and away the largest airport in the USA, and hence also one of the biggest employers in Colorado: the airport staff consists of over 35,000 employees. Inaugurated in 1995, the airport now has 23 airlines operating from it, flying to about 215 destinations and with 163 available gates, divided into three areas. In 2021 Denver airport handled 58.8 million passengers.
2- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Texas – 69 square kilometres
In second position in the top ten biggest airports in the USA is Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas. Although much smaller than Denver airport, Dallas airport handles about 70 million passengers a year, making it the 12th busiest airport in the world. Despite covering little more than half the surface area of Denver airport, it has 5 terminals and 191 gates and serves a total of 260 international destinations.
3- Orlando International Airport, Florida – 54 square kilometres
The third place in the rankings of the biggest airports in the USA takes us to Orlando, in Florida: this airport is best known as the airport for Disney World, an attraction that draws 58 million visitors every year, most of whom pass through the nearby airport. In 2021, the airport handled a total of 40 million passengers. Interestingly, the code used by Orlando airport is MCO, which derives from its previous name, McCoy Air Force Base, a military base that stood on exactly the same site and was closed in 1975, at the end of the Vietnam war.
4- Washington Dulles International Airport, Virginia – 52 square kilometres
Only a little smaller in size than Orlando airport, the airport that serves the USA capital is the fourth largest in the USA. The name of the airport was chosen in honour of John Foster Dulles, the 52nd Secretary of State, who served during the Eisenhower presidency. Inaugurated in 1962, the airport sees 24 million passengers pass through it every year.
5- George Bush International Airport, Texas – 40 square kilometres
We return to Texas for the fifth biggest airport in the United States, more specifically to Houston, about 4 hours’ drive from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Although it is smaller in size than Washington airport, it manages to serve more than double the number of passengers every year, with a total of 45 million. This airport is also named after a well-known politician: President George H. W. Bush. Until 1997, the name of the airport was simply Houston Intercontinental Airport.
6- Salt Lake City International Airport, Utah – 31 square kilometres
Situated about 6 kilometres from Salt Lake City in Utah, the airport was built in 1960 and has undergone various expansion and redevelopment works. While Salt Lake airport doesn’t stand out in terms of its surface area or passenger traffic (24 million people a year), it has several times been ranked top airport in the USA for punctuality of departures and arrivals and for the fewest flights cancelled.
7- O’Hare International Airport, Illinois – 30.9 square kilometres
The seventh biggest airport in the USA is in Chicago, Illinois. With 91 gates and 80 million passengers a year, the airport connects 228 destinations around the world. The structure was built in the 1940s as a production plant for the Douglas C-54, and it soon became the main airport for the city of Chicago, at that time the second most populous city in the USA.
8- San Francisco International Airport, California – 21 square kilometres
The eighth airport in the top ten is San Francisco, the principal airport of California, which is chiefly used for connections with Europe, Asia and Australia. It is the second busiest airport in California and in 2017 it was the 24th busiest airport in the world.
9- John F Kennedy International Airport, New York – 21 square kilometres
The famous John F Kennedy International Airport, re-named that after the assassination of the 35th president of the USA and often abbreviated to the acronym JFK, handles about 60 million passengers a year. Located in Queens, it is about to be expanded with the opening of 16 new gates for local traffic.
10- Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Michigan – 19 square kilometres
Concluding the rankings of the 10 biggest airports in the USA is Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Michigan. The airport handles 34 million passengers every year, and while it is fairly small in area compared to the other top airports, it has 103 gates. Given how heavily it is used, it will probably be expanded in the near future.