Anchorage Is Becoming One Of The World’s Busiest Airports

Over a month ago, we talked about why so many Boeing 747s were flying between the airports of Seoul and Anchorage. With the answer to that question being cargo operations, we are now seeing Anchorage’s Ted Stevens International Airport capture the title of the busiest airport in the world (kind of). Here’s what’s going on.

china airlines departing Anchorag
Boeing 747s and other cargo aircraft are frequently coming and going from Anchorage. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

The busiest airport in the world

According to CNN, Ted Stevens International Airport now was recently given the title of the busiest airport in the world – but just on Saturdays. Well, not every Saturday, just one particular Saturday. Speaking to CNN, Jim Szczesniak, the manager of Anchorage airport said the following over a video call:

“Saturday’s a busy day for cargo operations, which is our bread and butter, but it’s also the slowest day for passenger service … So for example, on Saturday, May 2, we in Anchorage had 744 flight operations, whereas Chicago had only 579 and Atlanta had only 529.”

Ever so briefly, Anchorage took the title of the world’s busiest airport on April 25th as reported by a post from the airport on Twitter:

All thanks to COVID-19

As explained by Mr. Szczesniak above, the title was claimed by Anchorage due to the combination of several factors.

The biggest of these factors is the drop in passenger traffic all around the world. That means busy passenger hubs like Dubai International, London Heathrow, and Beijing Capital aren’t seeing the ‘normal’ levels of passenger traffic they once had before the pandemic. In fact, Airports Council International reports that passenger traffic is currently down by more than 90%. At the same time, cargo operations haven’t been hindered nearly as much as passenger travel as these flights are still allowed to operate.

Anchorage Ted Stevens International Airport is a main cargo hub for the trans-Pacific trade. Photo: Getty Images

Furthermore, while a Korean Air spokesperson told us that cargo activity hasn’t increased for them as a result of the pandemic, Jim Szczesniak is saying the opposite for his airport:

“We’re seeing an increased demand for cargo capacity…and that’s primarily because a lot of the supplies for the fight against Covid in North America are produced in Asia.”

These factors, combined with the fact that Saturday is a naturally busy day at Anchorage and conversely a quiet day for many passenger-focused airports, means that the Alaskan facility gets to take the ‘busiest airport’ title for at least a day.

In early May, a bomb threat was called into Anchorage Airport, temporarily shutting down the facility and diverting flights. Photo: Anchorage Airport


As countries start to slowly relax their travel restrictions and borders, we will also start to see airlines lay on more flights to accommodate the anticipated rise in travel. This means that Anchorage is unlikely to take the ‘world’s busiest airport’ moving forward. Unfortunately, if it does take the title again in the future, it’s likely because something else has gone horribly wrong in the world.

Have you ever flown to Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage before? Share your experience with us in the comments.