Atlanta airport is the world’s busiest. When you look at the number of flights many of the other busiest airports drop down in the rankings, major international airports often have large widebodies dominating but fewer flights. Atlanta certainly sees its share of widebodies but is also a major domestic hub with narrowbodies and regional jets.
It turns out that Chicago O’Hare isn’t that far behind Atlanta when ranked by number of flights. Here’s data from Airline Weekly sourced to Airports Council International.
Chicago had about 18,000 fewer flights in 2017 than Atlanta. That’s 50 flights per day. But Chicago O’Hare has plans to grow its infrastructure faster than Atlanta does, and that could allow the United and American hub to overtake Atlanta.
The Chicago plan grows the airport from 185 gates to 220 in 2026.
Atlanta has 193 gates and more modest plans to grow. They’ve rejected building a new international concourse. They’re adding 5 gates to the end of Concourse T. And there are further possibilities:
- Extend Concourse T on the south end to add 6-8 gates
- Extend concourses B, C and D adding two gates to each
In all likelihood this is either-or. But even if Atlanta added 8 gates to the south end of T and 6 gates across the other three concourses under consideration, in addition to the 5 they’re already adding to the north end of T that’s 19 gates for 212 total, shy of the gate capacity O’Hare is projecting.