OurAirports lets members tag airports to create different kinds of maps. I’ve created two maps that show very vividly where the intersections of people, money, and land occur in the world.
Welcome to the club …
The first tag, top150, shows the world’s 150 busiest airports by passenger traffic (as of 2007). Central Africa has lots of people, but not much money, so it’s empty. Australia and Canada have high per-capita incomes but a low population density, so they also appear mostly empty in the map, with only a handful of top-150 airports each. The U.S. has a lot of land but also a lot of money and a lot of people, so it’s very full. India and the Persian Gulf countries are starting to fill up, as incomes rise and more people travel.
… but not this club
The second tag, top30, shows a much more exclusive club, the world’s 30 busiest airports by passenger traffic. These are the absolute busiest hubs, and it takes a rich and populous city or country to support one. Not by accident, fully half of these airports (15) are in the United States, and 8 more are in Western Europe, leaving only 7 for the rest of the world to share.
In this club, the 1.3 billion citizens of China are represented by only two airports (including Hong Kong), and the 1.2 billion citizens of India are not represented at all. Canada and Australia also don’t make the cut (too few people).
Of course, there are other considerations: aside from its money, land, and people, the heavy air passenger traffic in the U.S. may also reflect its horrendous rail system.