CHICAGO - Chicago officials said the city's O'Hare International Airport is on pace to reclaim the title of the world's busiest airport by flights, a title it ceded a decade ago to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Memorial Airport.
The number of flights at O'Hare is currently running ahead of those at the Atlanta airport, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced this week during the World Routes in Chicago airline business convention.
"O'Hare isn't just the busiest airport in the world, it's an asset for the city of Chicago," Emanuel said Sept. 24. "These new gains will help us attract new businesses and solidify our place as the best connected city in the U.S. and around the world."
O'Hare has seen about 585,517 flights so far this year, according to Federal Aviation Administration figures. That compares to Atlanta's 582,138.
O'Hare's figures are on par with last year at this time, but Atlanta's are down. Chicago officials contend that the numbers put O'Hare on pace to reclaim the title based on 2014 operations.
Fitch Ratings recently shifted its outlook on O'Hare's rating to stable from negative, citing steady air traffic trends and more certainty about American Airlines' future at the airport following its exit the carrier's exit from bankruptcy.
Fitch affirmed the Chicago-owned airport's senior lien general airport revenue bond rating of A-minus. The action impacts $6.6 billion of bonds. The airport's $664 million of passenger facility charge revenue bonds were affirmed at A and their outlook remained stable.
The airport suffered during the recession, with passenger levels dropping by more than 12% below 2007 levels. Growth has been flat since 2010 although traffic over the first six months of 2014 was up 4.1%.
O'Hare's GARB credit profile including leverage and coverage levels are weaker than those of large single-A level hub airports, Fitch said, but the rating agency said mitigating factors include the airport's strong local market, the strategic location of Chicago as a hub, and its demonstrated importance to both United Airlines and American Airlines.
United and American both operate hubs at the airport and account for the majority of flights there with United representing 47 % of traffic and American 34%. Fitch said over the long term it expects O'Hare to demonstrate resilient traffic performance despite cycles in the economy and aviation sector.
Standard & Poor's rates the airport's GARBs and stand-alone PFCs A-minus and Moody's Investors Service rates the GARBs' and PFCs A2.