Passenger numbers worldwide have shifted, and predictions of when demand may return remain precarious at best; however, aviation infrastructure still stands for now. Let’s take a look at which countries can boast the most airports. While the world’s largest country is up there, the currently largest aviation market does not even make the top ten.
The last 12 months have turned much of what we thought we knew about commercial aviation upside down. Routes that used to be the world’s most profitable, such as London to New York, are down to a handful of flights and abysmal load factors. The grounding of a single aircraft type has turned into rows upon rows of parked planes mothballed for long-term storage.
However, while routes, restrictions, and passenger revenue are all subject to quick and instantaneous changes, brick, mortar, and asphalt are not so easily swayed. Nations such as the UK are now stepping in to help their airports through the crisis. Meanwhile, other countries are industriously building away at infrastructure support a market which has found the world’s largest three years prior to predictions, crisis notwithstanding.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
Usually the world’s largest domestic market, the United States has by far the most airports of any country in the world. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there are 19,633 airports across the country. Out of these, 5,082 are classified as public, and 14,551 as private. These designations refer to the airports’ usage, not ownership.
Airports with scheduled commercial services and more than 10,000 passenger boardings per year are considered to be primary airports. There are 396 primary airports in the US. Texas, Florida, California, and Alaska top the list, while Vermont has only one primary airport – Burlington International.
Brazil comes in second place with 534 public and 2,183 private airports for a total of 2,717. The largest country in South America, it is only tenth in the world by passengers carried. There are 134 airports with scheduled flights. The largest is São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport (GRU), which under normal circumstances serves 30 million passengers yearly with flights to 103 destinations and 29 countries.
Despite being only in 19th place globally in terms of passengers, Mexico comes in third with 1,740 airports. However, only 58 of these have scheduled commercial services. The largest airport by passenger numbers is Mexico City International Airport (MEX), which handled over 50 million passengers last year. Cancún International Airport (CUN) on the Yucatan peninsula came in second with just over 25 million.
Canada has 1,620 airports. However, most of these are relatively small. Seventeen Canadian airports are listed as international, and about 250 have scheduled services. With Toronto Pearson (YYZ) normally the busiest, the airport was beaten in summer last year by both Boundary Bay (YDT) and Abbotsford (YXX).
The world’s largest country, Russia, has a total of 1,218 airports. However, only 227 have scheduled services registered by the Federal Air Transport Agency – Rosaviatsia. Its westernmost airport is Khrabrovo Airport (KGD) in Kaliningrad, and its easternmost is Lavrentiya Airport, a small airstrip in Chuktokta, which is also the easternmost airport on continental earth.
Honorary mention – China
While it does not even make the top ten, the world’s currently largest aviation market, China, deserves an honorary mention. The government is busy building hundreds of airports. Today, the country only has around 235 public airports. As it is estimated it will need about 450 of them by 2035 to keep up with the market’s exponential growth, an infrastructure program worth billions of dollars is rolling out across the country.