Asia’s 9 busiest airports in 2019

Travel

(CNN) — With Beijing’s new world-beating airport set to open this year, it adds to the list of megahubs in the region already vying for passengers and airlines while innovating along the way.

The continent holds nine of the world’s top 20 busiest airports by total passenger numbers (including both domestic and international flights), according to the latest report by Airports Council International highlighting preliminary 2018 figures.

Three of the top 10 busiest airports in the world are in Greater China, where aviation is taking off dramatically. The country is building eight new airports per year, and aims to open 216 by 2035.

But though Asia is the most crowded region in the world for air travel, for the most part it provides a masterclass in airports. Four of the top five airports named at the recent Skytrax World Airports Awards are in the region.

Asia’s mega hubs are capable of handling tens or hundreds of millions of passengers, and new facilities and amenities leave the dated airports of much of the rest of the world far behind — places where fliers are treated to some of the most incredible pieces of architecture and experience features rarely associated with air travel.

Beijing Capital International Airport

Beijing Daxing Airport

A rendering of Beijing’s Daxing Airport, due to open later this year.

Courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects

2018: 100,983,290 passengers

World rank: 2

The reason Beijing is opening a new airport this year is obvious when you look at its existing Capital Airport.

Now the busiest airport in Asia and the second-busiest in the world after Atlanta-Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in the US, this sprawling, world-leading facility handled over 100 million passengers in 2018.

When the new Daxing Airport opens, Beijing Capital will not close.

Instead it will continue to handle airlines like Air China and Hainan Airlines, giving the city an extra boost of capacity as the number of air travelers shows no sign of abating.

Tokyo Haneda Airport

Tokyo Haneda is the world's most punctual mega airport.

Tokyo Haneda is the world’s most punctual mega airport.

TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images

2018: 87,131,973 passengers

World rank: 5

Probably one of the only airports that ever has a chance of taking Singapore’s crown as passenger favorite is Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, the world’s fifth busiest airport.

Whilst it doesn’t have Singapore’s amenities, and isn’t quite as modern as Seoul Incheon, it’s a master of Japanese efficiency and closer to the city than the alternative Narita airport.

It often tops the global rankings as a clean, customer-focused facility.

Novelist Eddie Robson said of spending nine hours in Haneda: “When we finally got around to checking in at 8:15, I was actually disappointed to go through the gates. Apparently there’s stuff we didn’t even see, like a mini replica of the Nihonbashi Bridge. Next time I’ll be sure to schedule more than nine hours.”
But the chances of finding yourself facing a delay here are rare. For the fourth year in a row, the most punctual mega airport (30 million+ seats) in the world, according to stats by travel analyst OAG, is Tokyo Haneda.

Hong Kong International Airport

Passengers departing Chek Lap Kok.

Passengers departing Chek Lap Kok.

Mike Clarke/AFP/Getty Images

2018: 74,517,402 passengers

World rank: 8

When officials decided that Hong Kong’s original airport would close in 1998, there was little doubt that its replacement would need room to grow.

The new site, known as Chek Lap Kok, has become the eighth busiest airport in the world, and the world’s busiest cargo airport.

Home to Cathay Pacific and many more airlines, the airport is built entirely on the leveled Chek Lap Kok Island with extensive reclamation on the north coast of Lantau Island and reclaimed land in the Zhujiang Pearl River estuary.

Travelers from the Western Pearl River Delta Region can now use the new Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai road bridge to reach the airport, bringing millions more passengers within the facility’s grasp.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport

An aerial shot of Terminal 2 at Shanghai Pudong International Airport.

An aerial shot of Terminal 2 at Shanghai Pudong International Airport.

JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

2018: 74,006,331 passengers

World rank: 9

Shanghai Pudong is the main international airport for the city and, aside from passengers, is the world’s third busiest cargo airport.

Surprisingly, Pudong only opened in 1999 and has already been expanded to include the world’s largest satellite terminal.

It can now handle up to 80 million passengers per year, but will no doubt reach that in no time and have to expand further.

Currently, it’s the world’s ninth busiest airport.

That being said, the passenger experience can leave a lot to be desired, with multiple visa, passport, baggage checks and “Foreign Fingerprint Control Centers” to contend with.

Delhi Indira Gandhi International

Indira Gandhi International Airport's new Terminal 3.

Indira Gandhi International Airport’s new Terminal 3.

Courtesy David Brossard/Creative Commons/Flickr

2018: 69,900,938

World rank: 12

According to the ACI report, in 2018 India became the world’s third-largest aviation market, overtaking Japan.

The busiest airport in India and 12th in the world is Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International — a hub for many of the nation’s airlines like Air India, IndiGo and SpiceJet.

In a country that plans to build many new airports to serve its remote regions, Delhi is planning for the future with a fourth runway and three more passenger terminals all in the pipeline to handle growth.

The airport recently won the Best Airport award from Airports Council International in its Airport Service Quality Awards (jointly with Mumbai Airport).

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport

GUANGZHOU, CHINA: This aerial view shows the new Baiyun International Airport in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, 15 June 2004. The new Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport is now running its final checks by experts from the Civil Aviation Administration and is scheduled to start operations on July 08. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

An aerial view of Baiyun International Airport in the Chinese city of Guangzhou.

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

2018: 69,769,497 passengers

World rank: 13

China’s aviation industry is growing across the board. The country plans to build hundreds of new airports over the coming decades, and more of its larger airports are already the busiest in the region.

Among these is Guangzhou Biayun airport. Serving China’s southeast Guangdong province and its huge population, it’s now the third busiest airport in the country and the 13th busiest in the world.

Despite the airport only opening in 2004, it has already completed an expansion phase by opening a huge new terminal in April 2018, which takes the total capacity up to 80 million passengers per year.

Incheon International Airport

Asian airports

The departure area at Terminal 2 of Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul.

JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

2018: 68,350,784 passengers

World rank: 16

One of the world’s most modern airports, Seoul’s Incheon International Airport is the main gateway to a country where air travel is growing fast and technology leads the way.

For an airport handling almost 70 million passengers per year, you’ll find there’s plenty of room and bright open spaces.

Its latest addition, the modern Terminal 2, opened in early 2018.

As well as adding much-needed capacity to the country’s main international gateway, developers designed the building around passenger needs by focusing on technology.

Friendly robots guide passengers to their gates and give helpful updates on your flight status. Other machines glide around, keeping the terminal clean.

The centerpiece of the terminal is the Great Hall, which covers four stories. Decorated heavily in granite and wood, it features artworks by local artists.

Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport

Terminal 3 of the Soekarno-Hatta airport in Tangerang, on the outskirts of Jakarta, opened in 2017.

Terminal 3 of the Soekarno-Hatta airport in Tangerang, on the outskirts of Jakarta, opened in 2017.

ADEK BERRY/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

2018: 66,908,159 passengers

World rank: 18

Using Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport could see you passing through the crowded domestic Terminal 1, the ultra-modern new Terminal 3, or the unique Terminal 2 with its unusual design reflecting tropical gardens and traditional pavilions.

Either way, you’ll be one of more than 66 million passengers using the airport, which serves the capital of a country made up of thousands of islands, where air travel is essential for getting around.

Indonesia’s airport operators are planning to build a third airport for the city soon, with the director stating: “The new airport will be a masterpiece of the country.”

Changi Airport Singapore

World rank: 19

2018: 65,628,000

Changi Airport Singapore has long been a favorite among passengers and airlines. In 2019 — and for the seventh time in a row — it was crowned the world’s best aviation hub.

Stepping through its four terminals is an experience unlike any other. Passengers simply love it.

As travel consultant Ben Schlappig comments, “I don’t think there’s an airport with more amenities than Singapore’s Changi. From a swimming pool to a butterfly garden to a movie theater, the airport has it all.”

Its latest addition, the Changi Airport Jewel complex has just opened, adding to the airport’s vast list of amenities and facilities. This new multi-use facility links three of four terminals and includes a hotel, over 280 retail and dining spaces, gardens and the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.

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