O'Hare busy, but not the busiest airport O'Hare still second-busiest U.S. airport

  • Passengers arrive at an American Airlines baggage check-in area Nov. 29 at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. Traffic was down at O'Hare in 2011, dipping 0.4 percent to nearly 879,000 takeoffs and landings.

    Passengers arrive at an American Airlines baggage check-in area Nov. 29 at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. Traffic was down at O'Hare in 2011, dipping 0.4 percent to nearly 879,000 takeoffs and landings. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 1/26/2012 7:03 PM

Once again, O'Hare International Airport played bridesmaid to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta when it came to the country's busiest airport, new FAA data shows.

O'Hare not only ranked second but flight operations were down by 0.4 percent in 2011, the Federal Aviation Administration reported Thursday. Atlanta's air traffic was also down by 2.7 percent.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Hartsfield-Jackson racked up 923,991 operations in 2011, while O'Hare experienced 878,798 operations. In 2010, O'Hare saw 882,617 operations.

American Airlines' financial troubles are partly to blame, aviation expert Joseph Schwieterman said.

"American is ratcheting down -- that's greatly hurt O'Hare's numbers," he said. "American and United Airlines are squeezing more people on fewer flights, which means reduced operations.

"The recession continues to hit the Midwest harder than the Sunbelt."

But at Midway International Airport, which has a significant Southwest Airlines presence, air traffic was up by 4 percent in 2011 with 255,227 flight operations compared to 245,533 in 2010.

More nimble carriers such as Southwest Airlines are helping to buck the downward trend, Schwieterman noted.

Regional jets are also being parked in favor of larger jets because of high fuel costs, said Schwieterman, director of DePaul University's Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development.

O'Hare is in the midst of a massive expansion, involving more runways. But plans for a western terminal have stalled because of intervention from United and American in connection with the added competition it could bring.

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