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Fri, Jan 05, 2007

Atlanta Hartsfield Earns 'World's Busiest' Title Once Again

Beats O'Hare By Nearly 20,000 Operations

The FAA confirmed yesterday Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International is still the world's busiest airport. That makes two years in a row it's beat out its number one contender, O'Hare.

Massive growth at Hartsfield during the late 1980s and through the 1990s pushed it into contention with O'Hare for the title late last decade.

This year, Hartsfield counted 78 million passengers through November (yearly totals have yet to be calculated) with O'Hare logging around 70 million.

Deputy general manager of Hartsfield Mario Diaz told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "There's no way they can catch up."

And it's not just the number of passengers, more airplanes landed and departed Hartsfield too. The FAA says Hartsfield logged 976, 313 operations with O'Hare snagging only (only!) 958,643. DFW came in third nationally with 702,713.

O'Hare does have some qualifiers though. First, the FAA has limited the number of flights because of airline overbooking. Second, O'Hare competes for planes and passengers with Midway Airport. Midway logged nearly 300,000 operations last year.

O'Hare spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said in a statement that officials there were not surprised the Atlanta airport had more flights in 2006.

"O'Hare's flight restrictions, which are scheduled to expire next year, have limited our ability to land and depart aircraft and, ultimately, meet the demand for air service that continues to grow at our airport," Abrams said.

 Chicago's O'Hare is in the midst of a massive expansion project with a planned 2013 completion date.

On the other hand, Atlanta opened a fifth runway in May last year allowing airlines to add more flights.

Of course, some industry observers say the Chicago-Atlanta rivalry may soon be a thing of the past. With markets heating up in China and India -- both with massive populations -- the title of "world's busiest" may soon leave the US for good.

FMI: www.ohare.com, www.atlanta-airport.com, www.faa.gov

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