Lucas Jackson  /  Reuters file
Travelers reach for their bags in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Atlanta’s Hartsfield International held its ranking as the world’s busiest passenger airport in 2006.
updated 3/7/2007 3:53:49 PM ET 2007-03-07T20:53:49

Atlanta’s Hartsfield International held its ranking as the world’s busiest passenger airport in 2006, followed by Chicago’s O’Hare and London’s Heathrow, according to preliminary figures released this week.

Some 84.8 million passengers went through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the Geneva-based Airports Council International said. It was a 1.2 percent decline over the previous year. O’Hare International Airport had 76.2 million, and Heathrow Airport 67.5 million, both numbers signal modest decreases in passengers compared with 2005.

Traffic at U.S. airports declined because of the restructuring of Delta and Northwest and the closure of Independence Air, the council said.

“Heathrow’s flat results stemmed from the August security scare and severe weather in December, but also show the stagnating effect of lack of expansion,” the council said.

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Filling out the top 10 were Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, with 65.2 million; Los Angeles International Airport, 61 million; Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, 60 million; Paris Charles de Gaulle, 56.8 million; Frankfurt Airport, 52.8 million; Beijing Capital International Airport, 48.5 million; and Denver International Airport, 47.3 million.

Beijing was the top performer in the Asia Pacific region with an 18 percent increase in passenger traffic, the council said. Denver was the best U.S. performer with a 9.1 percent increase.

Hartsfield also led in numbers of flights, handling 976,447, a decline of 0.4 percent. O’Hare, which was first in 2005, finished second last year with 958,643, a drop of 1.4 percent.

The total number of passengers worldwide rose by 5.1 percent to 4.4 billion, according to the council.

Memphis International Airport in Tennessee — headquarters of Federal Express — continued to have the world’s busiest airport for cargo, handling 3.7 million metric tons (4.08 million U.S. tons). Hong Kong International Airport was second with 3.6 million metric tons (3.97 million U.S. tons). Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Alaska, was third with 2.8 million metric tons (3.09 million U.S. tons).

The numbers released Monday by the Airports Council may change slightly in June when final figures are released.

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