Cities with the most commercial airports
Many cities have more than one airport. These have arisen for different reasons – often to meet expanding aviation demand, but also to serve different airlines or city districts. London and New York top the list with six commercial airports each, but what other cities have multiple airports?
London with six airports
London and New York both operate six commercial airports – we give London the top spot on the list because (in normal times) it has a higher total passenger volume. London Heathrow and Gatwick are the largest airports, but London also has London city center as well as London Stansted, Luton and Southend airports at a lower cost.
Heathrow is joined by five other airports – in different locations and with different purposes. Photo: Getty Images
Heathrow is joined by five other airports – in different locations and with different purposes. Heathrow is the largest of the airports. It has its origins in 1930 when the private Great West airfield opened for flight testing. It opened as a civilian commercial airport (London Airport) in 1946, replacing Croydon Airport as London’s main airport. Gatwick Airport arrived in 1958 (with London Airport renamed Heathrow). London City Airport only opened in 1987 to serve the regenerated urban area. With these six airports, London is the busiest city for air travel in the world. Only Heathrow and Gatwick combined account for more than 127 million passengers, according to Airports Council International (ACI) data for 2019. Adding the other airports brings that figure to 175 million. Before COVID, expansion plans were in place at several airports, including the controversial and long-planned third runway for Heathrow.
New York also has six airports
New York City also claims six commercial airports. The three main airports are Newark-Liberty (EWR), LaGuardia (LGA) and John F. Kennedy International (JFK). But three others within a reasonable distance of the city also have regular flights – Long Island MacArthur Airport, New York Stewart International Airport and Westchester County Airport.
New York City is served by three major airports and three smaller, more remote ones. We appreciate that some of them may be controversial in saying that they serve New York – indeed, New York Stewart International Airport (about 115 km/71.5 miles north of New York) is part of our list of airports furthest from the cities they serve. The context of New York’s three major airports is part historical and part functional. LaGuardia opened as a private airfield in 1929 and as a commercial airport in 1939. Newark Liberty International Airport opened (as Newark Metropolitan Airport) in 1928. It was built as the first airport serving New York and was the busiest commercial airport in the world in the pre-war years. JFK opened in 1948 (as New York International Airport) as air traffic increased and other airports were at capacity. In addition to allowing for greater capacity, these different airports have evolved to serve different areas and act as hubs for different airlines. Newark serves as a hub for United Airlines, while JFK serves American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and JetBlue.
Four and five airports in California, United States
Several other US cities have multiple airports. Again, this is often partly historical and partly due to geographic expansion. City centers added additional airports to allow for expansion into restricted areas, and other outlying airports joined to provide useful scheduled services as traffic increased. After New York, Los Angles has the most airports, with five airports close to the city. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is clearly the largest, but the greater Los Angeles area is also served by Long Beach Airport, Ontario International Airport, Burbank Airport and the John Wayne Airport. ]LAX is the largest airport, but four others serve the greater city area.
LAX is a key international gateway. Photo: Getty Images
San Francisco has the main San Francisco International Airport (SFO), as well as San Jose International Airport and Oakland International Airport. The smaller, domestic-only, Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport takes up to four people. Miami and Boston also have four airports.
Four airports for Tokyo, Moscow and Stockholm
Outside the United States, a few cities claim four airports. Moscow has four busy international airports, all located around 40 kilometers from the city. The largest are Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO) and Domodedovo International Airport (DME), as well as the smaller airports of Zhukovsky International Airport (ZIA) and Vnukovo International Airport (VKO).
Tokyo is an interesting case, with two major international airports (Narita and Haneda), as well as two much smaller ones, Ibaraki and Chofu. Ibaraki Airport is further from the center and serves as a low-cost airport for domestic and regional flights. Chofu Airport is a small central airport with limited scheduled services to the Izu Islands. And to complete the list, Stockholm also claims four commercial airports. The main international Stockholm Arlanda Airport is joined by Bromma Airport, Skavsta Airport and Vasteras Airport.
There are, of course, different ways of looking at the total number of airports. Here, we’ve looked at airports close to a major city (even if outside the city limits) that have regular scheduled flights. There are many more that make the list if you include two or three airports. Feel free to discuss more in the comments.
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