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Can LAX get as big as other top airports?

More than 70 passengers travelled through LAX last year, an all-time record.
More than 70 passengers travelled through LAX last year, an all-time record.
Photo by monkeytime | brachiator via Flickr Creative Commons

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Here’s a pop quiz: What is the world’s busiest airport?

Almost two weeks ago, Chicago's O'Hare International claimed the honor.

"As Chicago reclaims its place with the world’s busiest airport, it speaks to the strength of our city’s economy," bragged Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Not so fast, said Dubai, which last week said it was number one.

“This historic milestone is the culmination of over five decades of double-digit average growth," announced HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Airports.

Then, on Wednesday, Atlanta weighed in, and yes, it also claimed to be the champion.

“I am pleased to announce that once again – for the 17th year in a row – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the busiest airport on Planet Earth, with more than 96.1 million passengers,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said. 

Airports Council International ranks Atlanta as number one in passenger traffic, but those are based on 2013 numbers. The group's 2014 numbers will be out in a few months, but until then we know that LAX proudly takes an undisputed sixth place.

Gina Marie Lindsey, Executive Director of the Los Angeles World Airports, announced her retirement Tuesday after a 33-year career in the aviation industry. Since Lindsey started in 2007, passenger traffic has grown by 15 percent. 

Aviation consultant Jack Keady doesn’t think LAX stands a chance of competing with rapidly expanding Dubai, which state-owned Emirates airlines has made its glitzy global hub.

"Dubai has bumped everyone down,” said Keady.

Still, Keady says LAX will keep growing, even though it’s going to be working with the same number of runways for the foreseeable future.

“Instead of running 30-passenger turboprops and 100-passenger planes, you start bringing in the heavy metal,” said Keady.

Bigger planes are especially important because under a 2006 settlement with airport neighbors, once LAX hits 75 million passengers, it has to start closing gates.

More than 70 million passengers travelled through LAX last year, an all-time record.