O'Hare Airport second busiest after Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson
It might seem like the nation's busiest airport if you're stuck in a line, but O'Hare is No. 2 once again, data released Thursday shows.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport had the most operations in 2016 with 898,356, the Federal Aviation Administration reported.
O'Hare International Airport was second busiest, scoring 867,635 arrivals and departures, a dip of nearly 1 percent compared to 2015's tally of 875,136.
Midway International Airport remained consistent at 25th place for air traffic both years with 253,046 operations in 2016.
In terms of passengers, both O'Hare and Midway "have continued to grow over the last few years," Chicago Department of Aviation spokesman Owen Kilmer said.
Passenger counts expanded to about 78 million at O'Hare in 2016, a 1.3 percent boost from 2015, while Midway handled more than 22 million, a 2 percent jump from 2015.
International passenger traffic also spurted to 11.6 million last year, an increase of about 5.7 percent from 2015, Kilmer said.
To understand the dip in flight operations at O'Hare, it's important to realize that "airlines are grounding the small planes, particularly regional jets, in favor of mid-size planes with 150 or more seats," DePaul University transportation professor Joseph Schwieterman explained.
"That means fewer takeoffs and landing at O'Hare. Gone are the days when airlines try to outdo each other by operating small regional jets at high frequencies to dozens of mid-size markets," he said.
"The trend now is to stress the efficiency of having fewer but larger planes. Look around at O'Hare and you won't see many planes with fewer than 80 seats."
Where else can you expect a crowd? Los Angeles had the third most operations in 2016, followed by Dallas/Fort Worth and Denver international airports, the FAA said.
And, although Thanksgiving gets stereotyped as the most frantic travel season, O'Hare's busiest day for flights was on June 23 with 2,705 operations.
In comparison, the heaviest Thanksgiving date was Nov. 27, the Sunday after the holiday, with 2,616 flights in and out.