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Canary in the coal mine?

Wednesday, Apr 19, 2017

* O’Hare Airport is one of our state’s crown jewels, so this Greg Hinz report ought to case some worry

(F)igures drawn from U.S. Department of Transportation reports indicate that over the past decade, the total number of departing passengers dropped 1.5 percent at O’Hare even as it grew 8.1 percent nationally.

That leaves O’Hare far behind competing hub airports such as New York’s JFK, Los Angeles International, San Francisco Oakland and Dallas-Fort Worth, whose passenger loads rose 38.3 percent, 22.5 percent, 48.5 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively, in the same period. […]

O’Hare international passenger departures did grow 7.4 percent. But among all U.S. airports, international departures leapt five times faster, up 38.4 percent. Airports in the above cities plus Miami, Seattle and Houston all had growth of 20 percent to 90 percent in international traffic. […]

“O’Hare needs both a face-lift and a terminal expansion plan” to go with the new runways recently built on the field, [Joe Schwieterman, an aviation expert who heads the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University] says. “The facilities gap between Chicago and (other) global gateways has grown” as airports around the country and world have built new international terminals while Chicago has decades-old facilities, he adds.

Schwieterman said other factors beyond outmoded facilities and a shortage of gates explain O’Hare’s lagging growth. For instance, big airline mergers have given some carriers incentives to add service on the coasts and in smaller cities, while O’Hare’s biggest carriers, United and American, have been “cautious” in growing, at least here. Also, until 2010, O’Hare was subject to federal capacity limits on the number of flights it could schedule.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

24 Comments
  1. - Chicago Cynic - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 2:34 pm:

    Compared to airports like Denver, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Charlotte, O’Hare sucks. This has been obvious for decades. It’s not surprising travelers are avoiding it.


  2. - Empty Chair - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 2:35 pm:

    How much of this is due to growth at Midway? As an anecdote: I used to fly out of O’Hare several times annually, but I exclusively fly Southwest (for about two years now) simply due to the flexibility and rewards programs.


  3. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 2:42 pm:

    Hopefully, this puts the last nail in the coffin of that Peotone boondoggle.

    And maybe the state could call off the dogs on the farmers who have had to spend money to lawyer up to protect their land from condemnation proceedings.

    http://www.theherald-news.com/2017/03/09/state-wants-to-find-out-if-peotone-airport-could-be-built/a8pznbh/


  4. - titan - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 2:47 pm:

    Could people just be afraid to fly United?


  5. - Anon - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 2:47 pm:

    O’Hare’s growth is lagging, but we need a terminal expansion? Confused…


  6. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 2:52 pm:

    –O’Hare’s growth is lagging, but we need a terminal expansion? Confused…–

    What’s confusing? More gates, more capacity.


  7. - Last Bull Moose - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 2:54 pm:

    I am not sure there is a reason to worry here.

    In my youth I worked for Yellow Freight at their Mattoon terminal. Most of the freight we originated went to the St. Louis break bulk terminal. There it was put on trailers that could go directly to the final city.

    If we had enough freight to fill a trailer, that trailer would be loaded with a direct load. There was no need to handle the freight at St. Louis. Just change drivers and send it on.

    O’Hare is a break bulk station. If there is enough volume for direct flights from outlying cities to overseas locations, then the direct flights will be cheaper and less hassle. With the volume increases reported in the article, that seems to be what is happening.


  8. - kitty - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 3:06 pm:

    Wordslinger +1. O’Hare and Midway can be improved and have their capacity increased. Peotone is too far from The Loop, 80 - 90 minutes in average traffic, even longer during AM / PM rush and or inclement weather.


  9. - siriusly - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 3:07 pm:

    Empty Chair makes a great point, Southwest’s increasing at Midway has got to be a factor their schedule, flexibility and pricing makes them a great option.

    yes, O’Hare could use some modernizing and some improvements - but it’s not that bad and its certainly a lot better than New York’s LaGuardia which is probably one of the worst airports in the US.


  10. - Anon - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 3:14 pm:

    Wordslinger-

    I know 0% about airport/airline policy, so correct me if i’m wrong, but I was thinking isn’t that kind of like Pace having only half full busses and deciding they need to add more?


  11. - Ron Burgundy - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 3:20 pm:

    –Southwest’s increasing at Midway has got to be a factor their schedule, flexibility and pricing makes them a great option.–

    Not to mention a couple of the big drawbacks at O’Hare - pricy parking, weather delays and taxi time. Midway seems to have fewer cancellations and delays per capita, and when you leave the gate you’re in the air in 5 minutes, also 5 minutes tops from landing to gate. At O’Hare it could be a half hour each way.


  12. - cdog - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 3:26 pm:

    What’s the backlog of deferred maintenance amount at ORD?
    /s

    Isn’t that a scary thought.

    (We learned today that DNR was deferring $800M in maintenance.)


  13. - Cool Papa Bell - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 3:27 pm:

    You can look at Midway numbers but then check out Love Field in Dallas too. And the passenger numbers for LA would need to include John Wayne, Burbank, ect…


  14. - Jerry 101 - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 3:29 pm:

    Anon - If an airport doesn’t have any open gates, it can’t handle more traffic.

    If airlines can’t get more planes up to the terminal (due to all the gates being full), then airlines can’t fill more planes with more people.

    I have no idea why O’Hare is struggling to add traffic compared to other airports - it’s seems to be a combination of factors - but if O’Hare is tapped out on gates, then the only way to process more passengers is to add more gates. And you add more gates by expanding terminals.

    So, if you’re an airline looking where to add more flights and you can work around O’Hare, knowing that O’Hare has capacity issues, then you’ll look to add flights elsewhere. Maybe American will move some regional flights from O’Hare to DFW. Maybe United moves some regional flights from O’Hare to Denver.

    If you want to get more traffic moving through O’Hare again, you need to ensure O’Hare has the capacity to handle that traffic.

    Also, couldn’t hurt to look at ways to improve the O’Hare experience. Whenever I hear people talk about O’Hare, it’s to complain about how awful the O’Hare experience is compared to other airports (often, these people are catching connecting flights through O’Hare, but some also complain about how bad O’Hare is and how much better Midway is). I don’t really get it, I’ve always found O’Hare fine, outside of the massive lines to go through security. For example, it’s got way more, and way better, amenities than Denver has. But if people feel negative about O’Hare, they’ll try to avoid it.


  15. - gopower - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 3:45 pm:

    Obviously no one chooses their final destination based on how nice the airport is. But more gates at O’Hare could mean more connecting flights here, which would lower air travel costs for Chicago residents to a lot of places. Not to mention picking up some jobs and fuel taxes at the airport.

    Expansion might be worth it, as long as airlines are paying…


  16. - Wow - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 4:19 pm:

    O’Hare sucks because the leadership at the Dept of Aviation is void of new ideas. The same concessionaire group had been at O’Hare since their contract expired 6 years ago. Sucky leadership =’s sucky airport.


  17. - Yosarrian - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 4:22 pm:

    I fly out of O’Hare maybe 6 times a year. Hard to believe that there is no free wifi and if you pay for it, it is hard to connect. World class city with minor league airport. I have seen so many frustrated travelers wondering about wifi. Flying is difficult enough as it is. My pet peeve about O’Hare. Great places to eat at O’Hara though.


  18. - Whatever - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 5:14 pm:

    I guess all those people leaving Illinois must be driving their u-hauls instead of flying.

    I wonder if there is some way to tell if people who used to fly to O’Hare from the smaller airports as the first leg of the trip are now flying to Dallas as the preferred hub.


  19. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 5:58 pm:

    ===Hopefully, this puts the last nail in the coffin of that Peotone boondoggle.===

    The Chicago area is seriously missing the boat on air freight. And Will County and the south suburbs are the hub of freight activity in the Chicago area. If they just concentrated on the freight market and pared the plan down to one or 2 runways with a supporting infrastructure, and private $ was interested, this could be part of the kick-start needed in the Southland. Not a cure-all, but part of what is needed to piece it all back together. Some of us still care about the area between Kankakee County and the Loop.


  20. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 6:05 pm:

    –The Chicago area is seriously missing the boat on air freight. And Will County and the south suburbs are the hub of freight activity in the Chicago area.–

    What’s wrong with Gary? Plenty of room, longer runway than Midway. They get PFC money from O’Hare and Midway.

    Despite the bluster from the politicians, Northwest Indiana and Southeast WI are part of the Chicago metro economy.


  21. - Not It - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 6:11 pm:

    Interesting statistic: 70% of O’Hare’s passengers are just connecting. It is the reverse for Midway.


  22. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 6:37 pm:

    ===What’s wrong with Gary? Plenty of room, longer runway than Midway. They get PFC money from O’Hare and Midway.===

    GYY could work. I would submit that the Will County site is more adaptable, and doesn’t have the access issues Gary does. But, as one NWI leader I talked to said, “I’m all for the proponents of both airports…if Gary wants to compete for the business, let them compete” or something to that effect. So far, most of what we’ve seen is a few discount flights to FL or other destinations, on and off (and having no regularly scheduled service for a few years now), and a few Boeing corporate jets.


  23. - Whatever - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 7:19 pm:

    30 years ago, I lived in NWI and remember some local pols stating that one selling point for expanding Gary was that it would pave over a lot of environmental problems.


  24. - Ron - Wednesday, Apr 19, 17 @ 11:15 pm:

    Gary is a dump in a dump of a state. That’s the problem.


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