January 22, 2009

O’Hare flights drop below 900,000

Flights at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport fell 5 percent last year, dropping below 900,000 for the first time in a decade, a federal agency said.

O'Hare handled 881,566 flights in 2008 as airlines slashed capacity amid soaring fuel costs, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The biggest cuts came from UAL Corp.'s United Airlines and AMR Corp.'s American Airlines. O'Hare is United's largest hub and American's second largest, after Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

The two airlines account for nearly 80 percent of O'Hare flights, Crain's Chicago Business reported.

United cut its schedule by about 13 percent in November while American cut flights by 15 percent, OAG Worldwide data indicate.

The situation is likely to continue as the slowing economy forces airlines to make further cuts, Crain's said.

United and American reported wide fourth-quarter losses Wednesday and said they would continue to cut capacity this year.

Chicago Midway International Airport saw an even sharper falloff, with flights plunging 12.6 percent to 266,341 arrivals and departures in 2008, the FAA said.

The airport's largest carrier, Southwest Airlines, trimmed its schedule late last year and Continental Airlines shifted flights to O'Hare, the FAA said.

The April 2008 bankruptcy and shutdown of low-cost carrier ATA Airlines Inc. added to the decline.

Flight cutbacks increased United's November on-time O'Hare performance, which improved to fourth from 10th among the nation's 19 largest airlines, the U.S. Department of Transportation said.