World's busiest airports: Dubai overtakes Heathrow

The ACI report says, Dubai International Airport has become the fulcrum that connects long-haul international flights from east and west, north and south. (File)

The sixth busiest airport in 2014, Dubai Airports has leapfrogged three spots to overtake Heathrow to become the world's third busiest airport in 2015, according to new figures released on Monday.

According to the latest report from the Montreal-based Airports Council International (ACI), Dubai saw more than 77.45 million passengers in 2015, an increase of 10.7 per cent on 2014.

The ACI report says it has become the fulcrum that connects long-haul international flights from east and west, north and south.

If the Middle Eastern hub sustains the current growth rate, it will certainly clinch the top spot within the next decade.

"The (Dubai) airport is also the world’s busiest in terms of international passengers ahead of London-Heathrow (LHR). Dubai has become the fulcrum that connects long-haul international flights from east and west, north and south," ACI said in a statement.

Angela Gittens, Director-General, ACI World, said: "In certain markets, we see both airlines and airport operators expanding and optimizing their capacity in order to accommodate the growing demand for air transport… We continue to observe double-digit growth rates at major Middle Eastern and Asian hubs serving long haul routes in emerging markets. With the continued rise in per-capita income and liberalization of air transport across these markets, the propensity to travel by air will rise accordingly. However, airport capacity considerations on the supply side within major city markets will remain paramount to the issue of accommodating the surge in demand for air travel."

Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson held onto its crown as the world's busiest airport, while Beijing stayed in second place for the sixth straight year.

Atlanta Airport welcomed more than 100 million fliers for the first time in 2015, an increase of 5.1 per cent on the previous year. It has topped the rankings every year since 1998.

Beijing Capital International Airport was just shy of 90 million passengers.

Like Dubai, Chicago O'Hare jumped three spots in last year's table, going from seventh to fourth with 76.9 million passengers, a 9.8 per cent increase.

With total traffic of 75 million, Tokyo’s Haneda Airport rounded out the top five.

Heathrow remains the busiest airport in Europe but has dropped out of the worldwide top five for the first time in at least 15 years.

The London airport dropped three spots to sixth place in 2015 even though it had a record year for passenger traffic with a 2.2 per cent increase on 2014.

The rankings are based on preliminary figures from nearly 1,150 airports, including both domestic and international arrivals and departures.

Atlanta is constantly on top of the table thanks to its strategic location as a connecting hub for flights to North America and is within a two-hour flight of 80 per cent of the US population.

It serves as the base for Delta Air Lines, one of the world's largest carriers.

Dubai has made huge gains after boosting capacity and becoming an important hub for flights between east and west, while Chicago O’Hare has improved its position also after increasing capacity.

In terms of total air cargo traffic, the emirate's airport retained its sixth place with 2.5 million metric tonnes, growing by 4.5 per cent in 2015. However, international airfreight traffic expanded 4.5 per cent to 2.5 million metric tonnes with its ranking rising one place to second.

ACI said its final report will be published this summer and will include more than 1,900 airports.