Number of flights at O'Hare is down in '07

Jul. 6--The number of flights declined 3 percent during the first half of 2007 at O'Hare International Airport, which held on to its ranking as the nation's second-busiest airport, the federal government reported Thursday.

Flight activity jumped 4 percent at Midway Airport, which scored increases among both large and small jetliners.

Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport handled the most flights from January through June, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Hartsfield also surpassed O'Hare in passenger volume.

Hartsfield's lead over O'Hare as "the world's busiest airport" is expected to grow as a result of a fifth runway that opened there last year.

The prospects for additional O'Hare capacity hinge on the scheduled opening of a new runway in late 2008 as the first step in a $15 billion airfield expansion. The airport remains under a no-growth scenario caused by FAA-imposed flight restrictions that are expected to remain in place until new runways go on line, officials said. In recent years the airlines have been sending an increasing number of connecting flights to other airports to avoid congestion at O'Hare.

Hartsfield served 483,201 flights in the first six months of 2007, up 2 percent from the 472,431 flights there in the first half of last year.

O'Hare handled 461,661 flights through June this year, down from 477,001 in the same period in 2006, the FAA said.

Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport placed third with 338,618 flights in the first half of 2007, compared with 348,434 flights in 2006, the FAA said.

For all of 2006, Hartsfield handled 976,307 flights.

O'Hare served 958,643 flights in 2006, down 1.4 percent from the 972,246 flights in 2005, the FAA said.

In 2005, Atlanta topped O'Hare in both total flights and passengers, the first time Chicago's top airport fell to No. 2 in both categories. Atlanta repeated the dual victory in 2006.

Complete passenger statistics through the first half of the year were not available Thursday. About 30.9 million passengers boarded flights at O'Hare during the first five months of 2007, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. Hartsfield reported 35.2 million passengers through the first five months of the year.

Meanwhile, for the first half of this year, 151,414 takeoffs and landings took place at Midway, up from 145,377 flights in the 2006 period.

In all of 2006, there were 298,547 flights at Midway, up from 290,756 in 2005, the FAA said.

jhilkevitch@tribune.com

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