CHICAGO - Chicago's O'Hare International Airport reclaimed the title of world's busiest airport in 2014, a decade after ceding the status to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Memorial Airport.
The status is based on the number of flights which totaled 881,933, down .2% from 2013, compared to Atlanta's 868,359 flights, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration. Atlanta is expected to retain the title of busiest based on passenger levels.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is seeking re-election this year, used the news to tout city strengths.
"As Chicago reclaims its place with the world's busiest airport, it speaks to the strength of our city's economy - the No. 1 city in America for corporate relocations, the top metro area for foreign direct investment, and record growth in international tourism," he said.
Fitch Ratings last year 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 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 impacted $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. 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.