* 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.