O'Hare takes back busiest airport title

After several years in second place, O'Hare International reclaimed its title as busiest airport in the U.S. Wednesday, winning despite a slight decline in flights.

Final tallies from 2014 showed O'Hare with 881,933 operations, down less than 1 percent from its 2013 total of 883,287, according to data released from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Chicago's rival, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, handled 868,359 operations in 2014, and experienced a 5 percent drop from 2013 when it managed 911,074.

O'Hare last held the busiest airport title from 2001 to 2004.

New parallel runways at O'Hare, which have riled surrounding neighborhoods because of a surge in jet noise, are partly responsible for the uptick, DePaul University aviation expert Joseph Schwieterman said.

“O'Hare seems to have broken through the logjam with United and American flexing their muscles once again,” said Schwieterman. “The new runways give them a more solid foundation for growth and adding new routes.”

Schwieterman also attributed the shift to financial issues facing Delta Air Lines, which uses Hartsfield-Jackson as a hub.

Delta's and Northwest Airlines' merger several years ago is resulting in the consolidation of some overlap routes in the south, he noted.

Meanwhile, “O'Hare is on a roll with international flights,” Schwieterman said. “That may have tipped the balance in Chicago's favor.”

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