After two decades on top, Atlanta airport dethroned as world’s busiest

ATLANTA — Since 1998, Hartsfield-Jackson International has been the busiest airport in the world, but that is no longer the case.

Thursday, Guangzhou Bai Yun International Airport in southeast China bumped the Atlanta airport to second place for the distinction awarded by the Airports Council International.

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The overall sentiment Channel 2′s Wendy Corona heard was that the airport won’t be number two for very long.

“A lot of it is you have to look at what’s going on in the world,” traveler Levette Baker said.

“Since the COVID-19 [pandemic] has taken place, of course, it’s not a normal situation anymore,” traveler Mary Kate McGrady told Corona.

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Because of the pandemic, 2020 was an unprecedented year, air travel at Hartsfield-Jackson dropped more than 61% and served just 43 million passengers compared to 110 million in 2019.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a statement,

“Hartsfield-Jackson’s top priority remains providing a safe and efficient experience for the traveling public. During the pandemic, ATL took substantial steps to protect passengers and employees alike. Those steps are allowing Hartsfield-Jackson and its partner airlines to return to normal and with a renewed push to reclaim our title as the world’s busiest airport.”

In 2015, Hartsfield-Jackson became the first airport in the world to have more than 100 million passengers in one calendar year.

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Airport management says safety protocols put in place during the pandemic will remain throughout the foreseeable future as it works to regain traveler confidence and bring the busy back.