Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Michigan

Located in Michigan, Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) covers 19.6km², featuring six runways and two terminals. It was originally constructed in 1929 on 2.6km² of land bought by Michigan’s Wayne County, which still owns the airport.

DTW handled more than 34 million passengers in 2017, and the US Federal Aviation Administration predicts that this will grow to approximately 60 million within 20 years.

The McNamara Terminal has three concourses with 103 gates, which are used by Delta Air Lines and its partners Aeromexico and Air France. There are 62 gates at Concourse A, including 12 for international boarding with ten of those featuring dual jet bridge loading and unloading to speed up deplaning.

Concourses B and C at the terminal are connected to Concourse A by a tunnel that has a decorative colour-changing light installation. The concourses are used for smaller aircraft operating on regional flights.

The North Terminal opened in 2008, replacing the former Barry and Smith terminals in an effort to meet the expected amount of traffic. It operates as Concourse D and has 26 gates, as well as a customs facility for international flights.

John F Kennedy International Airport, New York

New York’s biggest airport is John F Kennedy (JFK) International Airport, spanning 21.04km² in the eastern borough of Queens.

The airport has six terminals with 128 operational gates, four runways and four helipads. It handled 59 million passengers and saw 446,459 aircraft movements in 2017, which makes it the 27th busiest airport in the world.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in October 2018 that JFK will be undertaking a $13bn expansion plan comprising two new terminals, a ground transport network, and upgrades to the runways and security. Work is expected to start in 2020 and be completed by 2025.

JFK was originally built with ten terminals before demolition works. The Tower Air Terminal has not been in use since 2000. Terminals 8 and 9 were merged into the new Terminal 8 facility, which is twice the size of Madison Square Garden and was opened in stages between 2005 and 2007.

SkyTeam alliance and other airlines operate domestic and international services from Terminal 1, while Delta Air Lines has full use of Terminal 2 and operates its main international flights from Terminal 4. Terminal 5 is managed by JetBlue Airways and used by multiple airlines, including Aer Lingus services that have pre-cleared immigration from Ireland.

British Airways operates Terminal 7 as part of a lease with the airport until 2022 with an optional three years and has plans to spend $65m to upgrade the terminal.

San Francisco International Airport, California

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is 13 miles south of downtown San Francisco in California, covering 21.07km². The airport handled more than 55 million passengers in 2017, making it the 24th busiest in the world.

There are four terminals at the airport, including the International Terminal. It was opened in 2000, when it was named the biggest international airport terminal in North America, spanning 1.8 million square feet. It was the first in the world to have gates able to accommodate the Airbus A380 double-decker aircraft.

“A terminal renovation project began in June 2016 and is scheduled to be completed in the final quarter of 2022.”

Terminal 1 was previously known as the South Terminal and features boarding areas B with 24 gates, and C with ten gates. A terminal renovation project began in June 2016 and is scheduled to be completed in the final quarter of 2022. The project aims to modernise the airport and make it more environmentally friendly. Developments include a new pre-security concourse, and reconstruction of Boarding Area B, as well as improved connections with public transport.

Opened in 1954, Terminal 2 is the airport’s oldest and has been renovated a number of times to enhance facilities. Terminal 3 comprises boarding areas E and F with 39 gates in total and is used by United Airlines to operate domestic flights.

O’Hare International Airport, Chicago, Illinois

O’Hare International Airport (ORD) spans 30.86km² in the north-west metropolitan area of Chicago. It is the busiest airport on this list and sixth busiest in the world, handling 79 million passengers and experiencing 867,049 aircraft movements in 2017.

There are seven runways at the airport and a further eight under construction, which are expected to be completed in 2020. ORD has four terminals and nine concourses. Terminals 1, 2 and 3 are mainly used for flights across the US and to destinations with border clearance, whereas Terminal 5 is used for all international arrivals, as it is the only facility on site with customs screening available.

In 2018, the airport confirmed plans for a wide-scale expansion and upgrade. Named O’Hare 21, the plans include demolition of the current terminal to construct the O’Hare Global Terminal. Gates and concourses will be reconstructed to increase capacity with a total of 235 gates, and ramp space will be expanded to accommodate larger aircraft.

The $8.5bn O’Hare 21 project is intended to boost capacity at the airport by up to 60% with the addition of two new satellite concourses. Plans were approved by the City of Chicago, the City Council, and a number of airlines in 2018.

Salt Lake City International Airport, Utah

Located four miles west of the city, Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) covers 31.16km², featuring three terminals, four runways and three helipads. The International Terminal offers US customs facilities for scheduled and chartered flights. Terminal 2 is reserved for Delta Air Lines, KLM and SkyWest Airlines, while Terminal 1 is used by all other airlines.

Delta Air Lines, KLM and SkyWest Airlines operate from Terminal 2. All other airlines serving Salt Lake City use Terminal 1.

The airport is served by the Utah Transit Authority’s TRAX system, which was specially extended in 2013. Visitors to the airport can use the TRAX network’s park and ride facilities to avoid paying parking charges at SLC.

SLC handled 24 million passengers in 2017, making it one of the least busy airports on this list. When first built in 1960, it was designed to handle half the current volume of traffic. As a result of the growth, the airport has been undergoing expansion works since 2014, with parts of the new SLC scheduled to open from 2020 to 2024.

More than 0.5km² of the airport’s land is leased to the US Government for military operations as the Roland R Wright Air National Guard Base.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston, Texas

Houston’s main airport, George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) is located across 40.46km², 37km north of the city. It is owned by the City of Houston and serves as the second largest hub for United Airlines in the country after Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. IAH served more than 40 million passengers in 2017, with 450,383 aircraft movements.

There are five terminals at the airport named A-E, which are accessible through three main entrances. There is an on-site Marriott Hotel located between Terminals B and C. Terminal A mainly serves domestic and Canadian flights that are not operated by United Airlines and is split into two North and South concourses with ten gates each.

Terminals B and C are used by United Airlines and its United Express branch mainly for domestic operations, as well as Terminal E, which serves as the airline’s base for international flights.

Terminal D opened in 1990 as an international arrivals location and is known as the Mickey Leyland Terminal. It features common-use gates, check-in desks and facilities for more than 30 airlines that operate from the terminal. In 2014, Houston City Council confirmed plans to demolish the terminal building and build a new facility in its place with more gates and extra space to accommodate Airbus A380 aircraft.
washington dulles international airport

Washington Dulles International Airport, Washington DC

Located in Virginia, US, Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) covers 52.6km², 26 miles west of Washington DC. Despite being one of the largest airports in the world, the facility handled approximately 22 million passengers in 2017, making it the 29th busiest in North America.

The airport has a main terminal building and two midfield terminals with a total of four concourses. The main building facilitates ticketing, baggage claims, US customs, and an arrivals building, which was expanded in 2009 to allow it to process 2,400 passengers an hour.

Concourses A and B are located in the building nearest the main terminal. They are used for international travel and domestic flights not operated by United Airlines, which has full use of concourses C and D in the second building.

An underground passenger transport system called AeroTrain is used to connect the main terminal with concourses A and C, as well as Concourse B in the other direction. The lines can be expanded further to connect additional concourse buildings and create a bi-directional loop around the airport.

IAD has four runways, with approval to construct a fifth in the future, although no plans have been formally confirmed.

Orlando International Airport, Florida

Orlando International Airport (MCO) is the third largest in North America, spanning 53.83km², which includes four runways and a main terminal building with four airside concourses.

“Another of the state’s airports with a similarly large surface area is Florida Southwest International Airport (RSW).”

MCO was first opened as McCoy US Air Force Base in 1942 for military operations. It was designated as an international airport for civil use in 1976 and named a large hub airport three years later, having handled five million passengers in 1978. The airport served more than 44 million passengers in 2017.

The site features a main landside building with two terminals A and B. Terminal A is the northern side of the building and leads to Airside 1 and Airside 2, while the southern Terminal B links to airsides 3 and 4.

In order to handle growing passenger traffic, MCO is carrying out work across the existing facility, as well as expanding with a South Terminal Complex (STC) that features Terminal C and a connection to an intermodal transport hub to link the airport with the Florida High-Speed Rail Line.

Another of the state’s airports with a similarly large surface area is Florida Southwest International Airport (RSW). Situated on 54.86km², the total area also includes approximately 24km² that is preserved for environmental conservation. However, RSW is significantly less busy in comparison to MCO, having handled 8.8 million passengers in 2017.

Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport, Texas

Covering 69.63km² between the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth in Texas, US, Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) has five terminal buildings with 165 gates in total. The airport is the 12th busiest in the world, serving 67 million passengers in 2017.

When the airport was built, it was designed with sufficient space to expand its capacity to accommodate 13 terminals with up to 260 gates. However, the amount of traffic required for an expansion of this scale is not predicted to be met in the near future.

There are five terminals named A-E at the airport, which are linked with the 7.74km-long Skylink automated people mover system. Skylink runs through DFW’s Express South car park to accommodate the future Terminal F that has been discussed between airlines and the airport owners.

The Terminal Renewal and Improvement Programme (TRIP) is being carried across DFW to restructure and modernise facilities in order to make the airport suitable for passenger requirements over the next 50 years. Work will be carried out at security and concession areas, as well as ticketing.

Denver International Airport, Colorado

Denver International Airport (DIA) is the largest airport in the US, spanning 135.69km². Despite its size, it handled 61.4 million passengers, making it the fifth busiest in the continent.

The airport has six runways that are spaced 4,200ft apart, and the 16,000ft 16R/34L runway is the longest in the US available for public use.

Air transport rating organisation Skytrax ranked the airport as 29th best in the world in 2018, which was the highest position for any US airport.

Construction of DIA was completed in February 1995, 16 months behind schedule, costing $4.8bn, which was almost $2bn over the allocated budget. Located 25 miles away from the city of Denver, the facility was built to replace the over-capacity Stapleton International Airport, which also faced legal issues regarding aircraft noise and a runway extension.

DIA was designed to allow future expansion to take place, including space for two more concourses, as well as to optimise the new airport’s runways for adverse weather conditions that caused problems at Stapleton Airport.

The 139,000m² Jeppesen Terminal provides landside facilities at the airport. It is separated into East and West terminals and has three passenger levels. Concourse A is accessible using a footbridge, whereas concourses B and C can only be accessed through the automated guideway train system. Construction on a modernisation project at the terminal started in July 2018 and includes new check-in counters, screening areas and commercial spaces that are due to be operational by late-2021.