Which European Cities Have The Most Commercial Airports?

As the physical landscape of cities in Europe has grown and evolved, the airports serving these destinations have changed as well. Some airports started as military airfields or recreational aerodromes, and either through necessity or economic opportunity, were converted to serve commercial air traffic. So which cities in Europe have the most commercial airports?

Heathrow airport with BA aircraft
London is a strong contender for having the most airports. Photo: Heathrow

Not completely straightforward

Before we begin, it’s important to note that categorizing an airport as belong to a particular city isn’t a simple yes-or-no process. Some airports are clearly within the boundaries of a city – such as London City Airport (LCY). Others are technically outside of the city that they mainly serve – such as Paris Charles De Gaulle, technically situated in the town of Roissy-en-France.

Most travelers who have tried out Ryanair may have had the unfortunate shock of landing at a small airport, which was a considerable distance from the city marketed on the airline’s website.

glasgow prestwick
Some travelers may have flown Ryanair to Glasgow Prestwick, not realizing the one-hour train ride required to get to Glasgow’s city center. For comparison, it also takes one hour to get to Glasgow from Edinburgh Airport. Photo: Billy McCrorie via Wikimedia Commons 

Therefore, instead of using travel time or distance, the main criteria in considering whether or not a commercial airport counts as part of a city’s air travel landscape should be common usage, and if departing/arriving passengers use the airport for accessing that city.

Paris

For most travelers, it may appear that Paris only has two airports: Orly and Charles de Gaulle. However, budget travelers may be familiar with Paris Beauvais as it is a destination for airlines like Ryanair, Wizz Air, Volotea, and Air Moldova. At over 60 miles (100km) away from the center of Paris, the airport’s name really pushes the limits of what counts. However, seeing as many budget travelers do use Beauvais to access Paris, it should be on the list.

It would be nice to say that Paris has a fourth commercial airport – Paris Le Bourget. However, this airport is much less a commercial airport these days and is instead used for business and general aviation (and the Paris Air Show, of course!). It was, however, Paris’ first commercial airport when it officially opened in 1919.

CDG
Paris Charles de Gaulle is the main international airport for travelers to and from the French capital. Photo: NASA

Moscow

With a population of nearly 12 million people, the sprawling Russian capital of Moscow deserves more than one airport. In fact, Ribttes notes that Moscow is served by three major international airports:

  • Domodedovo International Airport
  • Sheremetyevo International airport
  • Vnukovo International airport

Sheremetyevo and Domodedovo are the two main international airports for the city, while the smaller Vnukovo has many connections to the rest of Russia, as well as Eastern Europe (Romania, Armenia) and western Asia (Dubai, Istanbul).

Zhukovsky Airport is also international as it connects to Nur-Sultan in Kazakhstan using Kazakh budget airline FlyArystan.

Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet 100
Aeroflot’s main hub is at Sheremetyevo but also flies out of Domodedovo and Vnukovo. Photo: Getty Images

London

The undisputed winner of the European city with the most airports goes to London with six. These are:

Heathrow and Gatwick perform the bulk of international long-haul services while Luton and Stansted overwhelmingly serve budget airlines. London City and its close proximity to the city is considered ideal for business travelers connecting to major European cities looking for an easy and hassle-free airport experience.

Heathrow runway queue
London Heathrow most often tops the list of busiest airports in Europe. Photo: Getty Images

The city’s high number of airports can be attributed to its large population but also its urban geography. As London was established long before commercial air travel, much of the area was already developed and urbanized, leaving little room for large airports. Military aerodromes were converted into commercial airports and have remained viable businesses attracting various segments of commercial travel (leisure, budget, etc.).

Were you at all surprised by this list? Let us know in the comments!

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