Friday, January 23, 2015

EXTRA: O’Hare to Atlanta Hartsfield – We beat you!!! (For now, at least)

Chicago Aviation Department officials seem to be enjoying themselves these days – statistics released this week show that O’Hare International Airport had more flights during 2014 than any other airport in the world.

Including Hartsfield/Jackson airport in Atlanta – which for the past decade has acted as though having the “world’s busiest airport” title somehow makes their city more significant than it truly is.

OF COURSE, I’M old enough to remember when it was just a standing statement that O’Hare was the “world’s busiest” by whatever standard was used for measuring such things.

There are those Chicagoans who think the loss of that title to Atlanta hurts just as much as New York City being able to claim the “nation’s tallest building” title away from the one-time Sears Tower.

For the record, the Federal Aviation Administration reported that there were just over 881,000 flights to and from O’Hare last year, compared to 868,000 to and from Atlanta’s airport.

If one prefers to use the standard of the number of passengers who pass through the airport, then Hartsfield remains atop O’Hare.

PERSONALLY, I THINK it is important to keep in mind that this “busiest airport” standard really shouldn’t reflect upon the cities themselves.

Keep in mind that Chicago has so many flights in and out of O’Hare because this is a big nation and people needing to get from coast to coast have to transfer from one plane to another in order to make that trip.

Chicago had the busiest airport for so many years for the same reason that Chicago is the nation’s railroad hub and a center for transportation in general – our centralized location.

Which could have just as easily wound up in St. Louis – if our municipal neighbors to the south had had enough ambition to develop a sizable airport for themselves.

THERE ARE MANY generations of people who traveled by flight whose only “sight” of Chicago was the terminals of O’Hare in between flights.

Just as I’m sure there also are many people who now only pass through Atlanta – I still remember my nephew taking a flight last year from Midway Airport to Washington, D.C., that had a connection in Atlanta.

Which still strikes me as a ridiculous route to take – but I’m sure (at least I hope) some money was saved in the process.

So for now, Chicago gets to claim “Number One” status in airports. Although it won’t shock me to learn that numbers released next year for 2015 show the two airports flip-flopping back again.

I'M SURE THERE are some people who will use whichever title fits their needs at the moment -- such as one newsroom quarrel from over a decade ago back when I was with United Press International.

A Washington-based reporter wrote a story saying that Atlanta's airport was busiest. When Chicago-based correspondents challenged the accuracy, the D.C.-type said his story's premise was based on Atlanta having the title, and he didn't want to be bothered with any outside facts.

That doesn't make Atlanta superior to Chicago by any means.

Heck, even though one-time pitcher Greg Maddux ditched the Cubs for the Atlanta Braves for the bulk of his all-star baseball career, he couldn’t bring himself to pick the Southern City over the Second City when it came time for his cap "logo" for the Baseball Hall of Fame induction last year!


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