What Is the Busiest Airport in the World – and How Can You Avoid It?

Air cargo charter companies often encounter exasperated shippers who are dreading the idea of having to deal with a traditional airport experience. Sending your cargo charter flight through one of the busiest airports in the world can throw up a whole range of headaches on top of what might seem like an already complex process. Worry not, though! With the best air cargo charter services, traditional routes and busy airports can be avoided, meaning that you’re free to put your feet up and wait for your cargo to arrive, safe in the knowledge that the potential for disruption is minimal.

What makes a busy airport, though – where are the world’s busiest airports, and why are the airports so busy? It’s a good idea to have at least a passing knowledge of what the busiest airport in the world is so that you know where to avoid when sending your charter cargo plane. Without further ado, then, let’s look at some of the busiest airports in the world.

Hong Kong International Airport

The Far East features three times in the list of the top 5 busiest airports, and the title of the busiest airport in the world goes to Hong Kong. Over 5 million tonnes of cargo passed through Hong Kong in 2021, which saw it climb one ranking from second place to usurp number 2 on this list. Freight charter in this part of the world just takes on a different scale, and the busiest airports in Europe don’t even make the top ten. The closest is Frankfurt, appearing in 14th place with a rather tame 2.3 million tonnes – less than half the amount of cargo that passes through Hong Kong.

What this means is that for UK and Europe-based customers looking to arrange cargo charter services from the Far East, Hong Kong is a route to avoid – unless you like the idea of having to navigate the tribulations associated with your cargo passing through the world’s busiest airport! Air charter service cargo handlers will no doubt be acquainted with the difficulties involved, but ask yourself the question: why risk it? It is not simpler to use a less hectic, frenetic avenue down which to send your cargo?

Memphis International Airport

Borrowing its name from the original Dutch city, Memphis airport is about as close as Europe gets to the list of the top 5 busiest airports. In the heart of mainland USA, Memphis was 2020’s leader until Hong Kong took its place on the podium in 2021, relegating it to a lowly second place with its positively tiny 4.5 million tonnes of cargo processed last year. For those looking to send a cargo charter flight from the central US, this might be one to avoid, as for many years it was the answer to the question of ‘what is the world’s busiest airport?’

Cargo air chartering is, evidently, commonly used to send goods through Memphis International, but there are a range of alternatives relatively nearby that can make it straightforward to avoid the hustle and bustle. Smaller airports offer a great option, but a word of warning for those with oversized air cargo: it might be prudent to check that wherever you’re shipping from has the capacity to process your load.


Ok, now that the question of ‘what’s the busiest airport in the world’ has been answered – it’s pretty much always going to be Memphis or Hong Kong for the foreseeable future – let’s look at some examples closer to home. Cargo aircraft charter via Frankfurt might not seem to be too problematic – it’s only 14th on the list of the world’s busiest airports, as noted. It’s important to remember, though, that this also means that it’s Europe’s busiest airport.

While it ‘only’ processed 2.3 million tonnes of cargo in 2021, Frankfurt was and continues to be responsible for a majority of European trade, serving as one of the EU’s main hubs for import and export. What this means is that when organizing air cargo flights from outside to within this bloc, or vice versa, it’s a common choice. Your air cargo charters, then, might want to look elsewhere in order to avoid this perpetually busy cargo processing port.


Named after the leader of free France during the Second World War, Charles de Gaulle Airport is arguably the EU’s second hub when it comes to air cargo transport. Like most of these airports, busy runways and hangars are to be expected year-round, and organising a cargo plane for rent to depart via cargo air charter from Charles de Gaulle can be a complex and intricate procedure. Fortunately, unlike the disparate nature of US and Far East mega hubs, the EU is littered with large airports capable of processing oversized air cargo – all within a stone’s throw from one another.

Frankfurt to Paris is just 500 km by road, for example, and if one sets this as a radius then there are hundreds of viable alternative choices within that are capable of accepting air cargo charters. The story of EU freight is perhaps similar to the strengths of the EU generally, then. Unlike China and the USA – huge monolithic entities that are capable of anything individually – the EU is composed of smaller groups of resources that are pooled into one. For freight, this means that air cargo charter service providers are not consigned to huge shipping hubs, but instead have a vast array of smaller options that can suit any need.


Finally, it’s important to consider a large freight handling airport in Europe that’s no longer part of the EU.  Once a staple of the EU’s list of largest cargo processing airports, Heathrow no longer qualifies. The impact of the UK leaving the EU, paired with the COVID-19 pandemic, has hit Heathrow’s cargo processing hard, and its annual workload dropped to 1.1 million tonnes in 2020. If this trend continues, it’s not difficult to imagine Heathrow being disqualified from inclusion in this list of the world’s busiest airports in the near future – and, conversely, becoming quite a sensible choice for cargo air charter!

Back to the present, though, where Heathrow remains the UK’s busiest cargo processing hub. This fact – paired with the availability of alternatives such as Manchester, Gatwick, Stansted, and Birmingham East Midlands, all of which process less than a fifth of the amount of cargo that flows through Heathrow each year – makes it one to avoid for the crowd-shy shipper. Instead, cargo air chartering to one of these alternative destinations is a much more viable, agreeable alternative that promises simplicity and a straightforward procedure.

Selecting a Provider

Now that you’re aware of some of the busiest airports in the world, organising cargo air chartering should be a much simpler process. Whether you’re shipping from the Far East, the US, into mainland Europe, or directly into the UK, you know where to avoid, helping ensure that your air cargo flights are smooth and hassle-free on arrival. All that remains is to select from the list of air cargo charter companies and find a provider that matches your penchant for the peaceful.

You want to look for an air cargo charter company with years of experience navigating the busiest airports in the world, but that’s also comfortable avoiding a busy airport in favour of an alternative that promises a little more tranquillity. You’re looking for a safe pair of hands that are also adaptable – capable of ensuring that oversized air cargo is transported as simply and fuss-free as if it were a greetings card. You’re looking for an air cargo charter service that gets the job done and – literally and metaphorically – delivers. In essence, you’re looking for a long-established name in the industry, that can do all of that, and more.



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