Tuesday, February 5, 2019

We’re No. 1 (for now, at least)!

I can remember being a kid some several decades ago in Chicago – listening to the boasts that the civic-minded of us used to tell about our home city. 
From back in the day when O'Hare really was No. 1!!!
We had both the World’s Tallest Building and the World’s Busiest Airport.

NEITHER OF WHICH is true any longer. Particularly with the “tallest building” claim, as the one-time Sears Tower now bears a non-descript moniker and is surpassed by structures in New York, along with the Middle East.

But as for the “airport” claim, we were sort of able to reclaim that title for O’Hare International Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration this week reported there were 903,000 arrivals and departures that passed through our city’s airport named for the aviation war hero son of an attorney who ultimately cooperated with ‘G-men’ in the busting of gangster Al Capone.

That total is more than the number of people who passed through Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport – the facility that has been number one for the past two decades.

Does this mean Chicago has “reclaimed” its “rightful” position atop the nation’s aviation routes? That more people are choosing Chicago instead of that overgrown Southern hick town that hosted the Super Bowl game that left so much of the nation’s football fans in a funk (be honest, nobody with sense roots for New England).


For one thing, this figure is just for the number of flights that used the airport – not the number of people. By that standard, Atlanta still passed Chicago O’Hare in terms of individuals who passed through their facility last year. Some 83.4 million for O’Hare, compared to 104 million through Atlanta.

Plus, there’s also the fact that Chicago’s figures throughout the years that O’Hare was atop the airport rankings were always inflated because of the fact that airlines were creatures of travel habit.

O'HARE: The reason it's not still known as Orchard Field
Just as Chicago was a national transit hub when passenger trains were the common mode of travel and all routes passed through the Second City, the airlines tended to think of Chicago in the same way.

AS IN THEIR flights all converged on Chicago

So many people traveling from one part of the country to another found they had to make a stopover in Chicago before transferring to a connecting flight to take them to the place they really wanted to get to.

Now, with routes determined less by planted train track, other airports have served that same “connecting route” purpose – with the airport for Dallas/Fort Worth in particular taking on much of that “transferring flight” role.

Which is kind of a relief. I’d hate to think there were actually growing numbers of people in our society who felt some need to actually spend some time in Texas. In all honesty, if not for the fact I have an aunt and cousins who live in San Antonio, I doubt I’d give the “Lone Star State” a second thought.

JUST AS I’M sure there are generations past for whom the only time they ever spent in Chicago was during the time they were overcharged at airport concessions while waiting for a connecting flight.

They probably never saw any more of Chicago than the terminal used by whichever airline they chose for their particular flight.
It's still "tallest" in Chicago
Although considering that airlines tack on a fee to the price of tickets to cover the cost of the fees the airports charge for use, it means Chicago gained some tax income from all those travelers who never had the common sense to make Chicago their final destination.

With this 4.2 percent increase for the past year, we in Chicago can once again claim (for however a short a time period until the FAA issues updated statistics) that we’re “Number One!” atop the number of flights. Now if we can only figure out a way to add on a few dozen more stories to the tragically-named Willis Tower, we could go about reclaiming that “tallest building” title for Chicago as well.


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