Chicago O’Hare ready to overhaul 70m mark again; LaGuardia leads largest route league

Started on 14 February, Columbia, MO, becomes the latest link to the international mega gateway of Chicago O’Hare, courtesy of American Eagle. Along with other route launches in the pipeline, the airport will boast over 200 destinations again, come April 2013.

For decades renowned as one the world’s busiest airports, Chicago O’Hare International Airport has slipped down the global leader board to #4, having found growth between 2010 and 2012 difficult, as it struggles around the 67 million annual passenger mark, yet it is keen to plot a path to the 70 million passenger milestone again – which it last passed in 2008. Across town, Chicago Midway International Airport, also operated by the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA), has experienced more tangible 3% annual growth in the last 12 months, and is once again closing in on the magical 20 million passenger figure, having broken 19 million for the third time in ten years in 2012 — and adding nearly 2 million since 2010.

Chicago O'Hare 2003-2012 Annual passengers (millions)

Source: CDA

While domestic traffic at Chicago O’Hare has improved gradually year-on-year since 2009, international traffic has remained relatively flat, varying between 10 and 10.5 million over the same period. Looking forward to the prospects for 2013, and analysing data for April 2013 vs April 2012, total weekly flights from Chicago O’Hare are set to grow by 2.5% — extrapolating this growth figure in terms of the potential for annual traffic growth, could see the airport deliver around 68.5 million passengers in 2013.

In order to help facilitate this growth the CDA provides a comprehensive data package to ensure its prospective airlines make informed decisions. “We provide a variety of data analysis to airlines, including MIDT and other relevant data sources to ascertain the true market size between particular destinations and Chicago,” says Matt Danaher, Director of Airline and Industry Relations, CDA. He adds: “We do very detailed route forecasts when meeting with our airline partners to pitch new routes. This includes both O&D and connecting flows beyond ORD and the proposed city pair”.

League ahead LaGuardia

Nearly 40% larger than its nearest rival of Los Angeles, and the only Chicago O’Hare route with more than 30,000 weekly seats, New York LaGuardia is the clear #1 destination on the Windy City’s network. Despite its top position, the city pair has seen a 6.4% decline in weekly seats between April 2013 and April 2012, a fall almost matched by the number two market, with a 6% annual drop.

Chicago O'Hare Top 12 routes Weekly one-way seat capacity (Apr-13)

Source: Innovata Apr 13

Growth to Minneapolis/St. Paul, has come mainly as a result of the introduction of a double daily A320 service from Spirit Airlines. The only international route in the top 12, London Heathrow, has witnessed more marginal growth, with United Airlines replacing one of its thrice daily 183-seat 767-300 rotations with the larger 272-seat 777-200. Its nearest international route rival, Toronto, is way down in 22nd spot, and it is nearly 65% smaller than its UK competitor, with its weekly capacity declining by 11% year-on-year. Services to San Francisco have seen the most dramatic declines from Chicago O’Hare, with all three incumbents cutting frequencies in the last 12 months – American Airlines (nine less weekly 737-800 services), United (eight less weekly) and Virgin America (nine less weekly frequencies and the majority of existing flights transferred from A320 to A319).

UK holds off Mexican wave of new flights

Unsurprisingly, 90% of Chicago O’Hare’s weekly seats are within the US domestic market, and according to April 13 data comparisons with April 12, it looks set to grow by around 2% this year. The #2 country market is Canada (expected to grow by 8%), with around 430 weekly flights or 5% of all flights, with all remaining country markets sharing the remaining 5% of seats.

Chicago O'Hare Top 12 Country Markets Weekly one-way seat capacity (Apr-13)

Source: Innovata Apr 13

While the 70 weekly frequencies to the UK have remained unchanged over the last 12 months, services to Mexico have increased by 25% (from 53 to 66 weekly) in the same time frame. For April 2013, American has added San José del Cabo as a new destination from Chicago O’Hare; Frontier Airlines has added Huatulco and Puerto Vallarta to its Mexican route portfolio; United has also put San José del Cabo and Puerto Vallarta on its network map, while its regional partner SkyWest Airlines has added a daily CRJ-700 service to Monterrey under the parent brand. However, Mexico is not the top performing country market in the top 12, as Ireland, or more exactly Dublin, has increased by nearly 30% year-on-year, as a result of Aer Lingus’ four extra weekly A330 rotations (from seven to 11).

Routes launched in the last week

Also covered in this week’s New Airline Route News, American chose Valentine’s Day to start its daily ERJ-145 operation to Columbia, MO, operated by American Eagle, as did United with the start of flights to Thunder Bay in Canada, flown by its partner SkyWest. Also started on 14 February, but not a new route for the airport, was Spirit Airlines’ seasonal daily A319 service to Myrtle Beach, SC.

New Routes in April 2013 vs April 2012 Weekly Capacity Weekly Frequency
Doha (DOH) 2,345 7
Sarasota/Bradenton, FL (SRQ) 1,256 8
Phoenix, AZ (AZA) 1,246 7
Berlin (TXL) 909 3
Kitchener (YKF) 650 13
Monterrey (MTY) 462 7
Jackson, MS (JAN) 350 7
Mobile, AL (MOB) 350 7
Thunder Bay (YQT) 350 7
Columbia, MO (COU) 308 7
San Jose (SJO) 157 1
Huatulco (HUX) 138 1
Nassau (NAS) 66 1
Source: Innovata

“Our three main target areas in O’Hare’s network are China — specifically Chinese flag carriers — South America, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. We normally target those carriers who are members of Star or oneworld, with United and American making up almost 85 percent of our traffic,” says Danaher.

“We are particularly excited about the growth in international services at O’Hare expected over the first nine months of 2013,” continues Danaher. International route development highlights for the rest of 2013 include airBerlin starting in late March of thrice weekly A330 operations from both Berlin Tegel (increasing to 5 weekly on 1 May) as well as Düsseldorf. The latter German city will also benefit from American launching its own daily 767-300 operation in April, in competition with incumbent Lufthansa, which also flies daily. In addition, Austrian Airlines will start-up five weekly 767-300 services to Vienna from 17 May, as well as Hainan Airlines, a new operator for Chicago O’Hare, inaugurating four weekly A330 rotations to Beijing on 3 September. With all this new route development already on the books, 2013 looks set to see a resurgent Chicago O’Hare over the next 12 months.


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