Lonely Planet Writer

With passenger numbers hitting record-breaking levels, discover the busiest airports in Europe

For travellers with a habit of arriving at the airport at the very last second, pay close attention to the latest list of the busiest airports in Europe.

Terminal 1 at Heathrow Airport.
Terminal 1 at Heathrow Airport. Image by Heathrow Airports Limited

London Heathrow was the busiest airport in 2016, serving 75.7 million passengers, according to statistics from the European airport trade association, ACI Europe. That was far ahead of Paris-Charles de Gaulle at 65.9 million and Amsterdam-Schiphol at 63.6 million. Frankfurt retained its position as fourth busiest, followed by Istanbul-Atatürk. This year set a new record for airport travel in Europe, with more than two billion passengers travelling through airports on the continent.

Overall, passenger traffic around Europe grew about 5%, with low-cost carriers driving much of the increase in traffic. The increase in low-cost flights – often landing in smaller or secondary airports – led to a lot of growth in those kind of facilities, like Keflavik (Reykjavik) with an increase of 40.4%, Berlin (+36.7%), Sofia (+21.8%), Bucharest (+18.3%) and Krakow (+18.1%).

Heathrow Airport, Terminal 2A, first day of operations, arrivals concourse, 04 June 2014.
Heathrow Airport, Terminal 2A, first day of operations, arrivals concourse, 04 June 2014. Image by Heathrow Airports Limited

The fastest-growing airports for passenger traffic are centred in Eastern Europe, with Oradea, Iasi, and Bucharest BBU in Romania at the top of the list. Oradea, a city in the northeast near the border with Hungary, saw its passenger traffic grow by an astounding almost 500%. The Romanian cities were followed by Ostend, Belgium and Palanga, Lithuania. Iceland’s Keflavik Airport saw an incredible increased in traffic as well, with a 66% increase in passenger traffic in December 2016, compared to the same month 2015.

Around the world, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport is the busiest. According to 2015 statistics, London Heathrow is the sixth busiest airport worldwide, while Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport came in ninth. The busiest airport for international passengers in 2016 is Dubai Airport.

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