Los Angeles, O’Hare Predicted To Be the Busiest U.S. Airports this Thanksgiving

LAX Shooting TSA Officer
Assosciated Press

Los Angeles International (LAX) and Chicago O`Hare International (ORD) are expected to be the busiest U.S. airports this Thanksgiving, according to Orbitz’s Insider Index. The two airports switched positions from 2012’s ranking, when O’Hare was busiest.

Rounding out the top five are Boston Logan International (BOS), San Francisco International (SFO) and New York LaGuardia (LGA).

The least busiest airport is predicted to be Syracuse Hancock International (SYR). So all you folks living in New York state (talking about you Binghamtonites) might want to look to Syracuse rather than New York City for booking a flight.

To arrive at these rankings, Orbitz reviewed its booking data from the top 50 U.S. airports over the Thanksgiving travel period (Nov. 26 through Dec. 2, 2013).

Cockpit Chronicles: How I Fell In Love With An Airplane (Video)

The MD-80 just might be the Rodney Dangerfield of the airline world. It just can’t seem to get any respect. But for those who really get to know the airplane, it offers some features, and admittedly a number of quirks, that has made it near and dear to many pilots. Against all odds, this Boeing pilot has fallen in love with the Mad Dog.

Passengers either love the airplane or hate it. And much of those feelings depend on where you’re sitting. A perch up in first class offers one of the quietest cabins in the air. Conversely, finding yourself in the back row between the engines and across from the lav would only be appealing to the truest aviation geek who somehow enjoys the noise.

Compared to a Boeing, there are so many sounds, levers and quirky features in the cockpit of an MD-80 that I can only do justice by video. So on my last week of flying the airplane back in February, I decided to document a few of the features that have made me fall in love with the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 or the “Super 80” as we call it.

For all the quirks, as I mention in the video, it has an enviable safety record.

But let’s face it; the reason I’ll miss the MD-80 the most might have more to do with which seat I sat in. Bumping back from captain to co-pilot as these airplanes are retired means that I won’t find myself taxiing around La Guardia or Chicago, or any place for that matter as the captain does all the taxiing.

And the co-pilots I flew with were the hardest working aviators at the company. I will absolutely miss them as some became good friends along the way.

You never know, with the flood of A319s, A321s and new Boeing 737-800 and -900s coming at my company, I could be back in the Super 80 left seat soon, or in one of those shiny new jets. Either way, I’m glad I had the opportunity to fly the airplane before it’s gone.

[Photo credit: Kent Wien]

Related: “Captain on the MD-80? Why?” and “A Captain No More.”

Cockpit Chronicles” takes you along on some of Kent’s trips as a captain co-pilot on the MD-80 757 and 767 based in New York. Have any questions for Kent? Check out the “Cockpit Chronicles” Facebook page or follow Kent on Twitter @veryjr.

Virgin America now connects California to Chicago

Virgin America is taking its mood-lit flights to the Midwest. Today the airline kicks off service from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Chicago O’Hare, and Gadling is joining the airline for its inaugural celebration.

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To celebrate the new service, Virgin is offering Chicago flyers a $25 Groupon deal for $100 in air travel, discounting one-way fares as low as $59, and gifting triple points to frequent flyer members.

Stay tuned to Gadling this week for updates from the events and notes from the first few days of service. Word in the underground is that tonight’s celebration at The Wit in Chicago is going to rock the house. Rest assured, we’ll be in the middle of that storm.

United and American sue City of Chicago for planned O’Hare expansion

o'hare expansion

United Airlines and American Airlines have taken a disagreement with the City of Chicago to court, asking a judge to block a planned expansion of the airport.

At the heart of the disagreement is “phase 2” of the O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP). The modernization of O’Hare started years ago and was badly needed – it included new runways, a new air traffic control tower and upgrades to the existing terminal buildings. Phase one of the program added runway 9L/27R – the first new runway added to the airport since 1971.

Now Phase 1 is almost complete, work on Phase 2 has started – and is expected to cost an estimated $3.36 billion. In Phase 2, the airport will rebuild two runways, extend one runway and build a new western terminal building. Problem is – the two airlines that provide over 80 percent of air traffic to O’Hare are not convinced the airport actually needs the expansions.

The two airlines made the rare move of joining forces to issue a combines statement about the changes, and filed their lawsuit in the Cook County Court. Whether or not the airlines get their way won’t matter – the lawsuit alone will probably become just another delay in the modernization program.

And if you feel sorry for the airlines – don’t – most of the money for the modernization program comes from “passenger facility charges” in the form of bonds – and these “PFC’s” make up a small chunk of every ticket sold. End result – O’Hare becomes one of the most expensive airports in the country.

Still, as someone who uses O’Hare regularly, I’m really not against paying a couple of bucks extra to improve the airport. Things (read: delays) have become more bearable in recent years, but there are still plenty of ways the airport can improve itself. If the airlines actually want to fix things, they can start by improving their own terminal facilities and lounges (hint: AA, your presence at O’Hare really sucks)

For more on the lawsuit and for a link to the actual filing, check out Chicago Breaking Business.

[Photo: Getty Images]

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]