O'Hare remains the second busiest airport in nation, gains ground from 2021

O'Hare International Airport beat its Atlanta rival in terms of growth rate for flights in 2022, the Federal Aviation Administration reported Friday.

But Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport still shellacked Chicago for the third year in a row as the nation's busiest airfield.

The FAA counted 711,561 operations at O'Hare in 2022, trailing Hartsfield-Jackson's 724,145. That's a difference of 12,584, about 34 daily flights.

At the same time, O'Hare continues to climb out of its COVID-19 blues with a 4% spurt in flights last year compared to 684,201 arrivals and departures in 2021.

In comparison, Hartsfield-Jackson saw a 2% increase in operations.

"Chicago never likes to be second to any other city on any aspect of transportation, but these results are largely consistent with expectations," DePaul University transportation Professor Joseph Schwieterman said. "Atlanta is in a better position to tap into growing leisure traffic to warm-weather destinations than O'Hare.

"O'Hare has been affected more by the sharp downturn in traditional business travel than most other airports. Fortunately, corporate travel is gradually rebounding."

Airlines across the world still have to make up for losses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chicago last held the busiest airfield title in pre-pandemic 2019 when it hosted 919,704 flights.

The third busiest airport in 2022 was Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, followed by Denver International Airport, and Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas.

Midway International Airport gained a lot of ground in 2022 with 214,427 flights, a 15% spike from 2021.

The Chicago Department of Aviation is in the midst of redevelopments at both airports.

In 2023, an update of Terminal 5 continues with new gates and amenities opening. Construction of two game-changing satellite concourses on the west airfield begins in 2024. The most ambitious project is a new Global Terminal replacing Terminal 2 with groundbreaking set for 2026.

At Midway, the city is expanding its concessions with new restaurants and shops including Garrett Popcorn, added this month.

"Some of O'Hare's performance is the result of traffic shifting to Midway," Schwieterman said. "With Southwest ramping up at O'Hare, though, next year's numbers should be better.

United Airlines has its hub at O'Hare and "is particularly bullish on expansion, having placed a massive new jet order. There is a reasonable chance O'Hare can close the gap with Atlanta over the next decade," he noted.

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