Airlines, airports and passengers: nothing but gains this year [INFOGRAPHICS]

airlines, airports, passengersThere are a whole lot more of us flying this year: 4.3 percent more, to be exact. That’s the increase in domestic air traffic from September 2009 to September 2010, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Transportation. In that month, U.S. airlines had 57.3 million passengers, leading to the largest year-over-year gain since September 2007. Meanwhile, international passenger traffic on U.S. flights surged 9.4 percent year over year.

For the first three quarters of 2010, scheduled domestic and international passengers were up 1.5 percent, suggesting that the recovery has gained momentum throughout the year. Domestic passengers gained 1 percent, with international passengers up 5.3 percent. Relative to 2008, though, passenger traffic is off 6.8 percent.

So, who wins? Of course, the airlines have had a relatively fantastic year, especially the worst of them. Delta, considered bottom of the barrel, surged from #3 in September 2009 to #1 in September 2010, with more than 9 million enplaned passengers, up 68.6 percent year over year (but don’t forget that the Northwest merger plays a role in this. Delta‘s also the top dog for the first nine months of the year for the same reason, followed by Southwest, American Airlines and United Airlines.


Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport remains the busiest in the United States by a considerable margin. Close to 32 million passengers passed through in the first nine months of 2010, an increase of 1.1 percent year over year. Atlanta led Chicago O’Hare, which came in second, by more than 9 million passengers so far this year. For the greatest gains, look to Charlotte: it was eighth on the list but posted a growth rate of 6.5 percent YTD.

Las Vegas was the only airport in the top 10 for the first nine months of 2010 to post a year-over-year decline. The number of enplaned passengers dropped by a rather substantial 3.6 percent year over year, hardly surprising given the fact that the Las Vegas tourism business has been slammed by the recession. Also, outbound traffic from Las Vegas is likely constrained by the local economy, which has been battered pretty badly (as real estate prices indicate).


Even though the number of passengers increased for airlines and airports, the number of flights operated slipped 1.2 percent from the first nine months of 2009 to the first nine months of 2010. Likely, the airlines were tightening up their flights, making better use of available seats and cutting expenses.

[photo by Yaisog Bonegnasher via Flickr]

Chicago (once again) considering premium rail link to O’Hare

If you have ever flown into Chicago’s O’Hare airport, you’ll know that the train ride between the airport and downtown is not a great experience. Sure, it’ll get you where you need to be, but when compared to other major international airports, it could really do with an upgrade.

So, once again, Mayor Daley has dusted off the plans to launch a premium rail link connecting Downtown with the airport. The O’Hare Express may or may not run over existing tracks, which already brings out a major problem – an express train will never be an express train if it has to constantly wait for existing commuter trains.

Other options include creating bypass tracks, but with a proposed $15 or $20 fee for the premium link, the ride duration would really have to come down considerably when compared to the current 45 minute trip. In the previous proposal to create a fast rail link, only 10 or 15 minutes could be shaved off the ride, which would obviously be a very hard sell.

My thoughts? It doesn’t make sense to do this unless they are willing to do it right. The link needs dedicated tracks, new modern rolling stock and modern stations. When you compare the Blue Line with the rapid rail services in Hong Kong or even London, it isn’t hard to see that we have a lot of catching up to do.

[Photo from Flickr/Senor Codo]

Chicago solution to budget problems: get passengers liquored up at O’Hare

Chicago’s Mayor Daley has come up with a creative way to deal with his constant budget issues – introduce alcohol carts at Chicago O’Hare. The plan would allow current liquor license holders to sell booze at spots where there are no nearby restaurants or bars.

Thankfully, the idea isn’t as controversial as plans to sell booze at the baggage claim area, like McCarran in Las Vegas, but in a day and age where planes are quite regularly diverted because of drunk passengers, I’m not sure providing easier access to booze is such a good idea.

Worse yet, chances are that none of the cash generated for the city would go back to the airport – an airport that really needs all the help it can get. Anyone that has passed through O’Hare knows that it isn’t exactly a very welcoming airport. In the Daley plan, you’ll soon have an easier time finding someone selling cocktails than finding a quiet place to sit and relax.

The idea is still in its early stages, but chances are that restaurant operators will soon have even more places at O’Hare selling alcohol to needy passengers.

[Image from Flickr: pfala]

Delta Airlines adding hourly Chicago <-> New York service

Delta airlines just announced the introduction of 22 new daily flights between Chicago and New York. The new flights will be operated as Delta Shuttle flights, and will start June 10th.

The new hourly service out of O’Hare replaces current Delta flights between Chicago Midway and LaGuardia.

Delta obviously means business – because they are also going to offer free coffee and newspapers at the gate, which will be located as close as possible to the terminal 2 security checkpoint.

More flights on this route means cheaper fares for everyone, because the other airlines will clearly be paying attention to this increased capacity. Delta kiosks will be available for same-day ticket purchases.

The route will be operated by an Embraer 175 jet – with 12 seats in first class, and 64 seats in coach. Because this is a narrow body jet, there are no middle seats. The flights will offer Delta’s “enhanced shuttle service” which means meals in first class, and free wine and beer in all cabins.

United Airlines computer problem delays O’Hare flights

United Airlines is currently experiencing some major delays and cancellations at Chicago O’Hare.

The computer systems responsible for checking you in, are down and passengers have to be manually processed the old fashioned way.

Most delays are between 2 to 3 hours, but many flights are also being canceled because of the glitch.

United has issued a travel waiver for tickets issued for travel today, though I’m pretty sure that won’t be much help to people who had planned to get away for the holiday weekend. Finding an alternative flight may prove to be near impossible.

United Airlines is advising passengers to check their flight status at United.com before leaving for the airport, and if you are heading to O’Hare for a United flight, I recommend preparing for a long wait.