The inaugural Turkish Airlines flight arrived at Atlanta's international terminal May 16, 2016.

It’s still a small minority, but international traffic was a bright spot for growth in an otherwise flat year for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which announced that 2017 numbers will keep it as the world’s busiest airport for the 20th straight year. 

The statistics have yet to be vetted by Airports Council International, but the Atlanta airport logged 103.9 million passengers last year, a decline of a quarter of a percentage point from 2016’s total of 104.2 million. 

International traffic, meanwhile, grew by nearly 5 percent to 12 million, up from 11.5 million in 2016. 

Cargo was another positive amid an otherwise humdrum year for traffic, with overall cargo operations increasing by 5.66 percent. 

“We set out last year to increase our international passenger numbers and overall cargo totals,” said ATL General Manager Roosevelt Council, Jr.  in a news release. “We are thrilled to see the results of our hard work.”  

The airport also believes that it has reclaimed unambiguously the title of world’s busiest airport by taking back the lead in total takeoffs and landings, which it briefly lost to Chicago O’Hare

“Operations,” or “aircraft movements,” as they’re alternately called, stood at 879,560 this year, 2 percent down from 898,356 in 2016. 

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who recently told Global Atlanta she would be launching a new search for a general manager at the city-run airport, noted that the airport is also known for its efficiency. 

“Hartsfield-Jackson successfully combines efficiency and passenger volume in a way that ensures ATL retains its position as the aviation industry’s leader,” Ms. Bottoms said in a statement. “That worldwide leadership role enables the airport to maintain its status as the economic engine of the Southeast.”       

The smoothness of normal operations was perhaps what made an all-day power outage that disrupted more than a thousand flights so surprising in December. The airport’s handling of the outage, in which backup power sources were also taken out, was widely criticized. 

The airport remains the only one to surpass 100 million travelers in a year, and fears that Beijing or another monstrous airport would one day surpass it have so far proven unfounded. 

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...