The US Had More Flights Than Any Other Country in 2014

Aug 28, 2015

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According to the World Bank and the International Civil Aviation Organization, the US ranked as the top country for takeoffs of commercial flights in 2014, accounting for over a quarter of global air traffic. (Note: Numbers cited below have been rounded off.)

The stats were released in this report, and as you can see, about 9.55 million flights originated in the US last year out of a worldwide total of about 36 million. What might surprise you, though, is that that number has actually declined steadily but slowly over the past four years from 2010, when the US (still ranked first) had about 10.1 million takeoffs. Still, 9.55 million is nearly three times as many flights as the second nation on the list, China.

Photo courtesy of Leonard Zhukovsky /
The US had nearly three times as many flights as the second nation on the list, China. Photo courtesy of Leonard Zhukovsky /

The other countries topping the list include:

  • China, which had just 2.37 million takeoffs in 2010, but 3.36 million in 2014
  • Canada, whose takeoff tally rose to 1.29 million last year
  • UK, with 1.07 million flights last year, up from just under a million in 2010
  • Brazil, with 937,000 flights
  • Japan, with 928,000 flights, a number that had dipped slightly in 2011-2012
  • Germany, with 913,000 flights, also on the decline
  • Russian Federation, with 748,000 flights, up nearly 50% since 2010
  • Turkey, with 723,000 flights – nearly double its 2010 total
  • India, up to 720,000 flights after a few years of holding steady
  • Indonesia, with 704,000 flights, another 50% increase since 2010

And in case you’re interested in the ME3 airlines out of the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates (home to Etihad and Emirates) saw its takeoffs rise from about 171,000 in 2009 to 357,000 in 2014, a 109% increase.

Some other dramatic rises to note include the fact that India had just 198,240 recorded takeoffs in 2000, so it has more than tripled its registered flights in the past 14 years. While Brazil hit a slump back in 2003-2004, with just about 486,000 flights each of those years, it launches about double that number of flights now, with 937,000 in 2014.

While interesting, none of these numbers is a huge surprise. Of the 6.6 billion or so passengers who took to the skies in 2014, a growing proportion of those are coming or going from developing economies with huge infrastructure projects in the works including China, Brazil and India. And we are only likely to see further increases in the coming years.

That still looks to be a ways off, though. According to this recent ranking of the world’s busiest airports by passenger numbers in 2014 from Airports Council International, four of the top 10 are in the US, while several others are established European hubs.

Avoid long airport lines by signing up for Global Entry or TSA Precheck asap. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
US airports were among the busiest in the world in 2014. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Here are the top 10 in terms of passenger numbers (embarking and deplaning):

  • Atlanta: 96 million passengers
  • Beijing: 86 million passengers
  • London Heathrow: 73.4 million passengers
  • Tokyo Haneda: 72.8 million passengers
  • Los Angeles: 70.7 million passengers
  • Dubai: 70.5 million passengers (this is a close one!)
  • Chicago O’Hare: 70 million passengers
  • Paris Charles de Gaulle: 63.8 million passengers
  • Dallas-Ft. Worth: 63.6 million passengers
  • Hong Kong: 63.1 million passengers

Those stats are based on passenger numbers, but what is also interesting to note is that the FAA released the list of busiest US airports by total flight operations and Chicago O’Hare was actually on top for 2014, followed by Atlanta, despite overall declines at both of them. They were followed by Dallas, Los Angeles and Denver rounding out the top five. Even more interesting: Those five airports alone accounted for about a third of US air traffic.

So despite the fact that the US is likely to have the busiest skies for some time to come, our flight numbers are actually on a slight decline. Where the traffic does exist, however, it is getting more concentrated. That seems to be a result of continued consolidation in the airline industry and the creation and reinforcement of hubs for their flight schedules.

We’ll likely see similar patterns in both established and emerging economies with the expansion of international airlines and route networks, especially in China, India and other developing economies as their flight numbers continue to rise as well.

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