The buzz began around the 2008 Olympics and it is getting stronger and stronger for Beijing's international airport which in the past 12 months has moved from being the eighth busiest to the second busiest in the world.

According to a report just released by the Geneva-based Airports Council International (, the Beijing Capital International Airport ranked in behind Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson and London's Heathrow in terms of moving both domestic and international passengers in 2009.

The Beijing hub was also the only one of those airports ranked in the top 10 to have seen an increase in passenger traffic in the past 12 months, according to the report.

And China's largest airport has continued to increase its flow-through in 2010, with the ACI reporting that for the first four months of the year, Beijing's 22.7 million passengers were second only to Atlanta's 27.5 million.

Those figures are in keeping with a July 6 report by aviation analyst OAG which first flagged that Beijing had this year overtaken London in terms of numbers, based on seat capacity.

Beijing's ability to handle more passengers was increased with the building of the massive Terminal 3 complex, designed to cater for visitors to the 2008 Olympic Games and designed to handle the very largest of passenger jets flying the skies.

It seems only a matter of time then before the Chinese capital moves more people than anywhere else in the world. But Robert Kennedy, interim manager of Atlanta's Hartsfield airport, believes there is a bigger picture to focus on.

"It's not necessarily about being number one. It's about doing it efficiently, safely, securely and serving the passenger,'' he told Atlanta business news website "The good thing about airports is that very few commercial flights take off and land in the same place. So we work together.''

The report also found Hong Kong continues to be the world's busiest airport for cargo and that it handled 3.35 million tonnes of the stuff in 2009. That ranked Hong Kong in front of South Korea's Incheon airport (2.27 million tonnes) and Dubai (1.85 million tonnes).

Flights of fancy - the world's busiest airports (passengers in million/year-on-year percentage change):

1. Atlanta (88.03/-2.2)
2. London (66.04/-1.5)
3. Beijing (65.37/+16.9)
4. Chicago (64.16/-6.1)
5. Tokyo(61.9/-7.2)
6. Paris (57.9/-4.9)
7. Los Angeles (56.52/-5.5)
8. Dallas/Forth Worth (56.03/-1.9)
9. Frankfurt (50.93/-4.7)
10. Denver (50.17/-2.1).