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Chicago O'Hare Reclaims Title of America's Busiest Airport by One Measure

Feb. 04, 2019
2 min read
Chicago's Centennial Wheel
Chicago O'Hare Reclaims Title of America's Busiest Airport by One Measure
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After four years in a row, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) has been ousted from its No. 1 spot as the busiest airport in the United States, as ranked by total number of flights.

Reclaiming that title is Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD), which last held the distinction in 2014. According to data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released Monday, good ol' O'Hare processed more than 903,000 arrivals and departures in 2018 — a number it last attained in 2007. The busiest months for Chicago took place during June and July. June 27 was the busiest day of 2018 with 2,847 arrivals and departures.

Meanwhile, ATL processed 895,000 arrivals and departures, claiming second place, while Los Angeles (LAX), Dallas Fort-Worth (DFW) and Denver (DEN) rounded out the top five.

Atlanta still holds the crown - and by a comfortable margin - as the world's busiest airport by arriving passengers. ATL saw 103.9 million arriving passengers while Chicago O’Hare had just 79.8 million in 2017, the most recent full year reported by Airport Council International. Don't expect O'Hare to catch up in that regard anytime soon, especially because more of its flights are operated on smaller jets, including regional planes, while Atlanta generally has larger aircraft.

If anyone in Atlanta is worried about being dethroned for most arriving passengers, Beijing's Capital International Airport (PEK) would be the one to watch. With 95.7 million arriving passengers in 2017 and larger passenger capacity than Atlanta as of 2018, Beijing will likely have the most passengers of any airport in the world in the near future.

Chicago has increased operations by 4.2% since last year, compared to Atlanta's mere 1.8% increase. The increase is primarily due to expansions by United Airlines, which is the largest carrier operating out of ORD. This past year, United added more flights from its headquarters hub to a number of smaller destinations in the Midwest. The airport also saw a 5.7% increase on the cargo transportation side, with 1.87 million metric tons of cargo passing through ORD airport grounds in 2018.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, Chicago O'Hare still ranks low on passenger satisfaction, according to the 2018 North American Airport Satisfaction Survey by J.D. Power. Hopefully Chicago's $8.5 billion expansion plans will help improve that score.

Featured image by Chicago's Centennial Wheel (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)