Transportation & Logistics Analysis

Air freight: 2023 ranking of the world's main airports

June 07 2024

INFOGRAPHICS. Global airports handled approximately 102 million tonnes of cargo in 2023, a 3.1% decrease from 2022.  

1/ The global Top 20

According to preliminary results released by the Airports’ Council International (ACI), global airports handled a total volume of approximately 102 million tonnes of cargo in 2023, down 3.1% year-on-year and 4.6% from 2019.


Anchorage Airport, which includes cargo transit traffic that calls at the airport without changing aircraft, is not included in our Top 20. Its traffic amounted in 2023 to 3.4 Mt, down 2.4% compared to the previous year. Data source:Airports’ Council International (ACI), airport authorities.

The world's top 20 airports account for almost half of the total volume with cumulative traffic of 45.9 million tonnes, down 3.2% from the previous year. This top 20 has 8 platforms in Asia (including 4 in China), 6 in the United States, 3 in the Middle East and 3 in Europe. In addition to international connections, Asia and the United States benefit respectively from an intra-US and intra-Asia markets suited to air cargo because its extent or geography.

In December 2022, China ended its Zero Covid policy, which helped revive the economy. Chinese airports took advantage of this as they all recorded a growth in traffic in 2023. Shanghai, in particular, saw double-digit growth. On the other hand, the other 4 Asian platforms in the Top 20 are in decline, and the decline is sometimes significant, as in Tokyo or Taipei. As for the United States and Europe, the year was also marked by an overall erosion of freight traffic, in connection with the slowdown in overall economic growth. The three platforms in the Middle East, on the other hand, recorded increases. This allows Doha, Qatar Airways' main hub, to join the Top 10.

2/ European Top 10


Data source: airport authorities.

The top 10 European airports in terms of cargo traffic (freight + postal) handled a total volume of 12.4 million tonnes in 2023, down 0.6% compared to the previous year and almost stable compared to 2019.

Leaders Paris and Frankfurt have managed to contain the erosion of traffic, but they both fall below the symbolic 2 million tonne mark, unlike London which regains ground lost in 2022, if we add traffic from all platforms in the London ecosystem. The decline is more obvious for Leipzig, which as such yields its 3rd place on the podium to London, and especially for the Benelux platforms, which are all suffering a double-digit decline. Driven by a Spanish economy that is performing above the European average, Madrid Airport stands out with a growth of 13.6% which allows it to enter the Top 10 at the expense of Brussels, relegated to 11th position after seeing its freight traffic decrease by 5.8%.

Outside the Top 10, we can highlight the performance of Munich Airport. Unlike its compatriots Frankfurt, Leipzig and Cologne, it recorded an increase in its traffic of 6.6% which allows it to occupy the 14th rank in Europe, with a total of 284,346 tonnes. Just behind, in 15th position, Rome-Fiumicino also distinguished itself in 2023, by claiming the growth record for the Top 15. The Italian platform processed 189,862 tonnes, an increase of 35%. This can be explained in particular by the dynamism of pharmaceutical shipments to China, in connection with the resurgence of Covid cases that occured when the country reopened.

3/ US Top 10


Data source: Airports’ Council International (ACI), airport authorities.

In 2022, the top 10 airports in the United States handled 20.1 million tonnes of air cargo, down 8.4% from the previous year. As in Europe, the decline is attributed to the slowdown in the economy, after the post-Covid period of overheating.

Memphis and Louisville airports, hubs for FedEx and UPS respectively, retain the top two spots in the Top 10, despite an erosion of their traffic. Miami, meanwhile, remains in 3rd place and stands out for its growth, albeit a modest one (1%), but only three platforms in the Top 10 can claim this upward trend. Cincinnati, Amazon Air's and DHL's hub in the United States, experienced the highest growth in the Top 10, 5.9%. New York’s JFK has also made progress, but this result is offset by the drop in traffic at Newark Airport, which declined by 9% to around 665,000 tonnes, according to figures from the Airports Council International. Overall, New York's place is therefore quite stable in terms of air cargo traffic.

Most of the other platforms in the Top 10 are experiencing a double-digit contraction in their freight traffic. This is particularly the case for Indianapolis, the headquarters of FedEx's 2nd hub in the United States, which is down 21.7%, in line with the decline in FedEx’s volumes, which accounts for almost all of the airport's cargo traffic. 

4/ Asia’s Top 10


Data source: Airports’ Council International (ACI), airport authorities.

The top 10 Asian airports had cumulative traffic of 22.2 million tonnes, down 2.2% from 2022.

China dominates the ranking, with five platforms in the Top 10, three in the Top 5, and the top two places for Hong Kong and Shanghai. In 2023, it is also notable that all Chinese airports in the Top 10 are growing, while all other Asian airports are recording a decrease in their cargo traffic. This can be explained in particular by the strong development of the fast-fashion platforms Shein and Temu, which have been boosting air cargo traffic from China for several months.

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Graduated from the Superior School of Journalism in Lille, Anne spent most of her career in the international trade and logistics press, before joining Upply.
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