A Ranking Of The Most Stressful Airports in the World

Airports can be some of the most stressful places we visit. With high volumes of passengers, layouts that feel more like mazes, and constant flight delays, it’s no wonder some people travel via car or train when possible.

But flying is the only option when you need to get from Point A to Point B quickly or explore another country. Today, we’re looking at the most stressful airports in the world. If you can avoid these locations, you’ll start your vacation or business trip with less anxiety. Let’s dive in!

What Makes An Airport Stressful?

Factors that stress out passengers the most are the high number of passengers, large airports, the frequency of flight delays, and the distance the airport is from the city downtown.

Crowded airports mean longer lines, which could lead to missing flights. It’s also more challenging to stay together when traveling in a group when you have to push through crowds.

Large airports may provide more room for passengers, but they’re often like a labyrinth. It’s challenging to navigate. You might end up on one side of the airport before you realize you need to be on the opposite end. It could take 20-30 minutes to reach the correct terminal.

Airports that have a high number of flight delays are also stressful for passengers. Some people avoid these airports altogether because they would rather pay more or drive farther to fly out of an airport with fewer delays. Flight delays cause numerous problems for passengers, especially when trying to catch another plane at another airport.

Finally, people who drive from several hours away want an airport close to the city downtown. They want easy accessibility, perhaps free shuttle service from a hotel. The farther an airport is from the city center, the more stressful it is for passengers to ensure they arrive on time for their flight.

A crowd showing long airport lines

How Many People Travel By Air Annually In the World?

Over four billion people travel by air each year worldwide. That’s almost 11 million per day.

During the holiday season, airports see increased passengers, adding to the stress of an already anxious time. Passengers are trying to visit family or friends quickly, and battling crowds and experiencing flight delays heighten their stress levels.

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What Is the Busiest Airport in the World?

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the busiest airport in the world. It had 93.7 million passengers travel through its terminals in 2022. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is the second busiest airport, with 73.4 million passengers.

Denver International Airport and O’Hare International Airport are third and fourth, making the U.S. home to the four busiest airports in the world. Dubai International Airport is fifth with 66.1 million passengers, the only non-U.S. airport in the top five.

The top 50 busiest airports in the world saw increased air travel in 2022 compared to 2021, which makes sense coming out of the pandemic. Nineteen U.S. airports make the list of the top 50 busiest airports in the world. If you’re flying out of these locations, expect heavy traffic, crowded waiting areas, long lines at security, and numerous flight delays.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport from above.

The 5 Most Stressful Airports In the World

VisaGuide.World looked into the top 30 busiest airports to discover the five most stressful locations. They surveyed over 1,600 passengers who had made at least two international trips in 2023.

Stress factors like the number of passengers, crowded airports, and flight delays helped determine which airports made the list.

1. London Gatwick Airport, United Kingdom

Total passengers: 32.8 million
Passenger density: 4.89
Delays: 41%

About: While London Gatwick may not see the number of passengers that the U.S. airports see, the major stressors for this airport are the high percentage of delays and passenger density.

This airport has the second-highest rate of delays in the world. It’s also a smaller airport, with crowded terminals and long lines. London Gatwick is the smallest airport on this list, with a total area of just under 2.6 square miles.

A crowd lined up all with suitcases at the airport.

2. Istanbul Airport, Turkey

Total passengers: 64.3 million
Passenger density: 0.84
Delays: 31.5%

About: Istanbul Airport in Turkey is the busiest airport in Europe. It’s one of the top ten busiest airports in the world.

Like London Gatwick, it sees a high rate of flight delays. However, the crowds are a bit easier to navigate because of the airport’s size. It’s about 29.5 square miles.

While it has twice the number of passengers per year of London Gatwick, it’s almost ten times larger. Because of its size, however, it can be difficult to navigate quickly and confusing for first-time travelers.

3. Munich Airport, Germany

Total passengers: 31.6 million
Passenger density: 2.01
Delays: 49.2%

About: After Frankfurt Airport, Munich Airport is the busiest airport in Germany. It’s about 18 miles northeast of Munich, making getting there less convenient than other airports closer to city centers.

It sees about the same number of passengers per year as London Gatwick but an even higher number of delays. This results in frustrated travelers. Munich Airport is also smaller; thus, the passenger density is higher than at the Istanbul and Denver airports.

Crowds and flight delays make Munich Airport one of the most stressful airports in the world.

Munich Airport on a blue skies day with planes in the foreground and the airport tower in the background.

4. Denver International Airport, United States

Total passengers: 69.3 million
Passenger density: 0.5
Delays: 20.9%

About: Denver International Airport is the only U.S. airport on this list. Other U.S. airports make the top ten, but none rank in the top five except Denver. It’s the third busiest airport in the world but is also 54 square miles in size.

It’s by far the largest airport on this list. Therefore, the passenger density is the lowest. However, navigating such a large airport is stressful and requires travelers to arrive much earlier.

Denver also sees almost 21% of flights delayed. When flying out of a city near the Rockies, you’ll want a backup plan during winter.

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5. Heathrow Airport, United Kingdom

Total passengers: 61.6 million
Passenger density: 5.08
Delays: 40.5%

About: Another United Kingdom airport makes the top five list of most stressful airports in the world. Heathrow Airport is the leading international airport serving London and is the second-busiest airport in the world in terms of international passenger traffic.

The crowds are substantial with so many people traveling through, especially since the airport is less than five square miles. The population density is the highest of any airport in the top five.

The delays are also significant. If possible, we suggest finding another airport to fly into to avoid the stressors of Heathrow Airport in London.

A crowded airport showing the direction sign and shops.

How Many U.S. Airports Make the Top Ten List Of Most Stressful Airports In the World?

We mentioned that Denver International Airport was the only U.S. airport in the top five. However, several U.S. airports make the top ten list.

Los Angeles International Airport is sixth, with 65.9 million passengers and a population density of 5.53. Like Heathrow, LAX sees many travelers but only has about 4.6 square miles of airport space.

Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is eighth, with 73.4 million passengers and delays on 20.7% of flights. John F. Kennedy International Airport and O’Hare International Airport round out the world’s top ten most stressful airports.

Tips For Traveling Through A Busy Airport

Sometimes, you can’t avoid traveling through a busy airport. We have a few tips for booking flights in or out of these stressful locations.

First, pack light. Avoid checking bags if possible, as this will reduce wait times, and you won’t have to worry about losing your bags.

Second, arrive early. While this should go without saying, busy airports have long lines and crowds through which you have to navigate. As mentioned, getting from one end to another of a larger airport like Denver International takes much longer than moving about London Gatwick. Give yourself plenty of time to reduce your stress level.

If you travel internationally frequently, consider applying for the Global Entry program. This will help you save time by eliminating long lines. If this isn’t right for you, we suggest signing up for the TSA Precheck to at least allow you to go through a special security line.

Finally, always have a backup plan. If your flight gets canceled or delayed, what will you do? Understand what the airline will offer. Research local hotels or Airbnbs ahead of time. Having a Plan B will make you more calm when a change happens.

A woman and her two children at airport security getting their bags ready to put through the x-ray machine.

Avoid These Busy Airports To Reduce Your Stress When Traveling

We suggest avoiding these stressful airports if you want a more enjoyable traveling experience. But we also know this isn’t always possible. Be flexible, plan ahead, and arrive early to help you navigate the stressors of busy airport travel.

Are there other tips you’d offer passengers flying into or out of these busy locations?

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