Earth & Conservation

What Is The Busiest Airport In The World?

The Hartsfield-Jackson Airport serves 100 million passengers and makes about $3.5 billion in state revenue so why is this airport so busy?

As Jerry Seinfeld has so sagely instructed us to ask -- what is the deal with airports?

Specifically, what is the deal with Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, the busiest airport in the world?

Turns out it's all about hubs and spokes, as Jules Suzdaltsev explains in this Seeker Daily report. Hartsfield-Jackson hosts more than 100 million passengers per year, making it the planet's busiest airport. If you're keeping score at home, China's Beijing Capital International Airport comes in second, with around 90 million passengers per year.

Both airports' extraordinary capacity numbers are due to the "hub-and-spoke" system, an air travel innovation pioneered by Delta Airlines in 1955. The hub-and-spoke system allows multiple flights to pick up passengers from different regional locations and deposit them at the central hub. Connecting flights then transport passengers to their final destinations.

The system greatly increases the number of passengers that can be efficiently moved about, while also saving on fuel costs. Previously, the airline industry relied on direct flights. Delta's innovative system changed the game.

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Not coincidentally, Atlanta is Delta's primary hub. And Delta, in turn, is the largest airline in the world, as measured by total number of passengers carried -- 130 million in 2014. Delta has been headquartered in Atlanta since 1941 and accounts for around 75 percent of the passengers moving through Hartsfield-Jackson.

After the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act, Delta's pioneering system was replicated around the U.S. and the world. The majority of the planet's airlines and airports eventually tumbled to the hub-and-spoke system, including Beijing Capital.

Atlanta had a significant head start, though, and Hartsfield-Jackson has been consistently expanding and refining its operation for decades.

It's good business for the state of Georgia, too. In 2013, the Peach State received around $3.5 billion from aviation operations in Atlanta. Factor in the overall economic impact of the airport on employment and tourism, and Hartsfield-Jackson pumps about $64 billion a year into the Georgia economy.

-- Glenn McDonald Learn More:

USA Today: Atlanta is world's first airport to hit 100 million passengers in year

Delta News Hub: Historian: 75 years of expanding horizons for Delta, Atlanta

Delta Air Lines: Your Guide to the Atlanta Airport

Georgia History: Delta Business History Profile