Skies apart, airports are where most of the action goes on in the world of aviation. There so much going on in any given moment. There could be no aviation without the infrastructure that airports offer. So lets take a closer look at how they are structured and how they work.

The Key Features Of An Airport

To properly function any given airport needs some key features. Them being:

  • Runway
  • Control Tower
  • Taxiways
  • Terminal

Depending on the complexity of the airport itself you might find additional assets such as:

  • Maintenance facilities
  • Refuelling facilities
  • Cargo terminals
  • Catering facilities
  • Hangars
Vancouver International Airport from Above

How Long Is an Airport’s Runway?

There is no fixed length an airport runway needs to be. The length of the runway depends on the type of traffic the airfield needs to handle. Generally the larger the planes that will serve the airport, the longer the runway needs to be. However other factors come into play too when determining how long a runway must be.

Some of these critical factors are:

  • The airport’s altitude
  • The average year round temperature

With higher altitudes and temperatures planes will need longer distances to takeoff as jet engines loose power as these two variables increase.

In normal conditions, at sea level in a temperate climate a runway to accomodate the largest passenger planes in service (Boeing 747-8 and 777-300 or the Airbus A380) will need to be just shy of 4,000m (or 13,000 feet).

The same runway at a higher altitude will need to be longer as is the case of Quito international airport (UIO) in Ecuador. The Quito international is situated at 2,400m AMSL (or 7,874 feet). Therefore the runway will need to be longer. Quito’s runway is in fact 4,100m long (13,451 feet).

Same logic applies to airports located in hot climates. The perfect example of this situation is Dubai International Airport (DXB). The UAE reaches daytime temperatures in excess of 50 degrees celsius in the summer time. Therefore longer runways are necessary to allow takeoffs of super jumbos such as the A380s Emirates operates during the hot summer months. Dubai’s two parallel runways measure:

  • 4,351m for runway 12L/30R (or 14,275 feet)
  • 4,447m for runway 12R/30L (or 14,590 feet)
Dubai International Airport Gate Area (DXB)

When Does An Airport Become a Hub?

An airport becomes a hub when an airline uses it as a base for its operations. Generally hubs tend to be larger airports with more facilities capable of covering all of the airline’s needs in terms of maintenance and catering.

Most European airlines have one main hub they operate from. The only exception in the context of European aviation is Lufthansa. The German flag carrier operates a two hub model.

In the US on the other hand it is common place for airlines to have more than one hub. This is clearly a necessity that the sheer size of the country forces airlines to take.

Which Are The World’s Busiest Airports?

Let’s now take a look at which are the busiest passenger airports in the world according to ACI by passenger volumes in 2022.

RankCountryAirportCodePAX Number
2USADallas Fort WorthDFW73.362.946
4USAChicago O’HareORD68.340.461
6USALos AngelesLAX65.924.298
11USANew YorkJFK55.287.711
12USALas VegasLAS52.694.312
5UAEDubai Intl.DXB66.069.981
7TurkeyIstanbul Intl.IST64.289.107
8UKLondon HeathrowLHR61.614.230
20MexicoMexico CityMEX46.258.521
9IndiaNew DelhiDEL59.490.074