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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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Mapped: Countries With a Shrinking Consumer Class by 2030

Despite the consumer class growing worldwide, some countries are predicted to see a decline in the number of consumers over the next decade.

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Map showing countries predicted to see a decline in the number of consumers over the next decade.

Visualizing Countries With a Shrinking Consumer Class by 2030

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.

Over 100 million people are expected to be added to the consumer class worldwide just in 2024.

Despite this, some countries are actually predicted to see a decline in their number of consumers over the coming years.

In this visualization, we list key countries that are losing consumers, using data from 2023 from the World Data Lab.

Demographic Changes Impacting Consumption

Under the definition used here, a consumer is classified as someone who spends at least $12 per day. Currently, more than half of the world’s population is considered to be in the consumer class—about 4 billion people in 2023.

According to World Data Lab research, demographic changes are the major factor driving increases and reductions in the number of consumers globally.

In Japan, where the most significant anticipated decline in consumer numbers is expected by 2030, the diminishing workforce and decreasing consumer base are mostly the consequence of the country’s low birth rate.

CountryDecrease in Consumer Class Size by 2030
🇹🇼 Taiwan-124,000
🇧🇬 Bulgaria-135,000
🇩🇪 Germany-152,000
🇵🇹 Portugal-178,000
🇮🇹 Italy-480,000
🇯🇵 Japan-3,600,000

Currently, more than half of all municipalities in Japan are designated as depopulated districts, with schools shutting down and over 1.2 million small businesses owned by older individuals or families lacking successors.

In Europe as well, a decline in both birth rates and an aging population is impacting consumption. Italy is expected to lose almost half a million consumers by the end of the decade. Births in Italy dropped to a historic low below 400,000 in 2022, and Italy’s dearth of babies is considered a national emergency.

The emigration of working-age individuals can also shrink a country’s consumer class. For instance, between 2019 and 2022, Taiwan’s population shrank by roughly 300,000.

As the age of the average consumer grows, the demand for healthcare services, leisure activities, and retirement-related offerings will increase.

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