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Mapping Airways: The World’s Flight Paths and Airports

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Map of the world's flight paths and busiest air routes

Mapping Airways: World’s Flight Paths and Airports

There are up to 8,755 commercial flights in the air at any given time of day. These flights transport thousands of people (and millions of dollars worth of goods) around the world.

But where are these people and goods headed? This map from Adam Symington uses historical data from OpenFlights to visualize the world’s flight paths.

The graphic shows a comprehensive data set encompassing 67,663 different routes that connect 10,000 different airports across the globe.

A Note On the Data

The map uses an OpenFlights database provided by the third-party source that hasn’t been updated since June 2014.

Because of this, the data used for the graphic is of historical value only. However, this detailed map sparked our curiosity and got us wondering—what are some of the busiest aviation hubs around the world right now?

We did some digging, and here’s what we found.

Busiest Airports by Passengers

There are several ways to gauge an airport’s popularity. One way is to measure total passenger traffic throughout the year.

According to Airports Council International (ACI), eight of the top 10 busiest airports for passenger traffic in 2021 were in America. Here’s a look at the top 10 list, as of April 11, 2022:

RankAirportCountryPassenger Traffic (2021)
1Atlanta GA (ATL)🇺🇸 US75,704,760
2Dallas/Fort Worth TX (DFW)🇺🇸 US62,465,756
3Denver CO (DEN)🇺🇸 US58,828,552
4Chicago IL (ORD)🇺🇸 US54,020,399
5Los Angeles CA (LAX)🇺🇸 US48,007,284
6Charlotte NC (CLT)🇺🇸 US43,302,230
7Orlando FL (MCO)🇺🇸 US40,351,068
8Guangzhou (CAN)🇨🇳​ China40,259,401
9Chengdu (CTU)🇨🇳​ China40,117,496
10Las Vegas NV (LAS)🇺🇸 US39,754,366

In 2021, the airport with the most passenger traffic was Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. It accommodated more than 75 million passengers last year—a 76.4% increase compared to 2020 figures.

Hartsfield-Jackson is well-known for being one of the busiest airports in the world. One reason for this is its convenient location—according to the airport’s official website, Atlanta is within a two-hour flight from 80% of the U.S. population.

Dallas/Forth Worth (DFW) came in second place, seeing 62.5 million passengers throughout 2021. DFW was one of the only airports to boost its service offerings throughout the pandemic, and is also the main hub for American Airlines, the world’s largest airline by fleet size.

Busiest Airports by Cargo

While the U.S. dominates the ranking when it comes to passenger traffic, the list is much more diverse when looking at air cargo volumes. Here’s a look at the ranking, based on loaded and unloaded freight and mail (including transit freight):

RankAirportCountryCargo Traffic (Metric Tonnes, 2021)
1Hong Kong SAR (HKG)🇭🇰​ Hong Kong5,025,495
2Memphis TN (MEM)🇺🇸 US4,480,465
3Shanghai (PVG)🇨🇳​ China3,982,616
4Anchorage AK (ANC)🇺🇸 US3,555,160
5Incheon (ICN)🇰🇷​ South Korea3,329,292
6Louisville KY (SDF)🇺🇸 US3,052,269
7Taipei (TPE)🇹🇼​ Taiwan2,812,065
8Los Angeles CA (LAX)🇺🇸 US2,691,830
9Tokyo (NRT)​🇯🇵​ Japan2,644,074
10Doha (DOH)🇶🇦​ Qatar2,620,095

Hong Kong (HKG) takes the top spot since the airport processed more than 5.0 million metric tonnes of freight and mail throughout 2021.

Hong Kong has been known as one of the busiest air cargo hubs for over a decade and is able to maintain this reputation because of its strategic location, impressive infrastructure, efficient customs, and business-friendly trade regulations.

The COVID-19 Impact on Aviation

The global pandemic hit the aviation industry hard. At its lowest point, international travel was down 98% from normal levels.

While the aviation industry is starting to recover from its COVID-induced slump, things still haven’t fully bounced back yet, especially in places like Shanghai, where lockdowns are still being mandated.

But experts remain hopeful for the future. According to ACI World’s General Director Luis Felipe de Oliveira, last year’s recovery was just the beginning.

“With many countries taking steps towards the return of a certain normality, lifting almost all the health measures and travel restrictions as supported by science, we welcome the continuation of air travel demand’s recovery in 2022.”
-Luis Felipe de Oliveira, ACI World’s Director General

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Maps

Mapped: 15 Countries with the Highest Smoking Rates

Since the 1950s, many countries have tried to discourage tobacco use and bring down smoking rates. Here’s where they haven’t worked.

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A cropped map with the 15 countries with the highest smoking rates in the world.

Mapped: 15 Countries with the Highest Smoking Rates

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

It was not until 1950 when the link between smoking and lung cancer was proven, though physicians as far back as the late 19th century had identified it as a potential cause.

Since then, many countries have discouraged tobacco products in an attempt to reduce smoking rates, and consequent health effects.

We visualize the countries with the highest rates of tobacco use among their population aged 15 and older. Data is sourced from the World Health Organization, and is current up to 2022.

Which Countries Smoke the Most?

In Nauru, nearly half of the population aged 15+ uses a tobacco product, the highest in the world. The island also has a high obesity rate, and nearly one-third of the population suffers from diabetes, due to poor nutritional variety in the food supply.

Here’s a list of smoking rates by country, ranked from highest to lowest.

RankCountryTobacco use in
those aged 15+
1🇳🇷 Nauru48%
2🇲🇲 Myanmar44%
3🇰🇮 Kiribati40%
4🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea40%
5🇧🇬 Bulgaria40%
6🇷🇸 Serbia40%
7🇹🇱 Timor-Leste39%
8🇮🇩 Indonesia38%
9🇭🇷 Croatia37%
10🇸🇧 Solomon Islands37%
11🇦🇩 Andorra36%
12🇧🇦 Bosnia &
Herzegovina
36%
13🇨🇾 Cyprus36%
14🇯🇴 Jordan36%
15🇫🇷 France35%
N/A🌍 World23%

Note: Figures rounded. “Tobacco use” includes smoke and smokeless products.

Meanwhile, countries in the Balkan also see a high incidence of tobacco use, bucking the general European trend. Entrenched cultural norms, lax laws, and inexpensive cigarettes are some of the most commonly identified causes.

On the other hand, tobacco use is a lot lower in the Americas and sub-Saharan Africa.

In the U.S., fewer than one in four adults smoke. Canada is even lower at 12% of the population. But some African countries (Nigeria and Ghana) are all the way down in the single-digits, at 3%.

Interestingly, men smoke more than women in nearly every country in the world.

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