Mayor Kasim Reed may be concerned about unseating New York in terms of international air destinations among U.S. airports, but Atlanta’s real connectivity rival may be Chicago, according to a new report out by OAG, an aviation insights company.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport this year was unseated by Chicago O’Hare as the most-connected “megahub” in the world, judging by an index constructed by measuring an airport’s possible connections combined with its number of destinations in a six-hour window, according to OAG. Chicago Midway was also named the most connected low-cost megahub in the world, according to the report released Nov. 30.
This comes a year after O’Hare took Atlanta’s spot as the busiest airport by number of flights arriving and departing, a metric known as “operations.” Atlanta, which became the first airport in history to attract 100 million passengers in a year, retained its title as the world’s most-traveled airport, and it also added top efficiency rankings yet again.
The OAG report was released on the same day Mr. Reed issued an impassioned charge for Atlanta to surpass New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport as the most-connected hub for international destinations.
“With the help and friendship of Delta, I believe we can surpass New York in terms of international connectivity,” he said, noting during a speech at the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s annual meeting. that Atlanta’s airport saw 13 million more passengers than Beijing, its next closest competitor.
Mr. Reed, who called the airport “irreplaceable,” has often played up the power of the airport to help business executives get back home after their work is done.
It’s unclear to which metric he was referring in the speech, and granted, there are many ways to benchmark global air traffic. But what is clear is that despite the fact that airlines reach hundreds of cities in the U.S. and abroad from Atlanta, it has a long way to go in terms of drawing more international passengers.
The latest figures from the U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism Industries show Atlanta lagging not only perennial juggernauts JFK and Los Angeles International Airport on this front, but also other hubs like Miami, San Francisco and Orlando, and yes, Chicago O’Hare, which sits at No. 4.
ATL is ranked No. 7 through September, attracting and sending 8.9 million international passengers, about one-third of New York’s 24.5 million and a little more than half of Miami’s 16.2 million.
A slowdown in the number of operations and connections in Atlanta could be a good thing for the city’s global reputation: Hubs like JFK and Miami tend to be destinations rather than transfer points, which means more time spent in the city, and perhaps more importantly, more tourist and business dollars.
Mr. Reed’s remarks also came on the same day Delta started nonstop flights to Cuba for the first time in 55 years, including connections to Havana from New York, Atlanta and Miami.
Learn more at at OAG’s Megahubs index.