For the third year in a row, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has retained its title as the nation's busiest airport in terms of flights, according to preliminary government data released Wednesday.
The Atlanta airport logged 994,466 flights in 2007, up 1.8 percent from 976,447 flights in 2006, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Flights include takeoffs and landings.
Its rival, Chicago O'Hare International Airport, was listed second busiest, with 935,000 flights in 2007. That number was down 2.4 percent from the 958,643 flights it had in 2006, the FAA said.
The FAA only released preliminary data for what typically are the nation's top three busiest airports — Atlanta, Chicago's O'Hare and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, said spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen.
Atlanta and Chicago have run neck-and-neck in recent years to claim the title of the nation's — and therefore, the world's — busiest airport. Atlanta already claimed to be the world's busiest airport in terms of passengers, with 41.35 million passengers in 2006, the latest data available from the FAA. Chicago was second busiest with 36.82 million passengers in 2006.
Atlanta airport officials said Hartsfield-Jackson's increased flights in 2007 came from growing demand for air travel in the metro Atlanta area and efforts to increase flights by Delta Air Lines Inc. and AirTran Airways, which both have large air travel hubs at Hartsfield-Jackson, said airport spokesman Herschel Grangent.
In recent years, O'Hare has faced limited flight capacity because of federally-mandated flight restrictions. But a new north runway and runway extension expected to open in November —when the federal restrictions will be lifted — will add to the airport's ability to handle new flights, said spokesman Gregg Cunningham.
Delta, which represented more than 70 percent of the total scheduled passenger flight volume at Hartsfield-Jackson in 2007, plans for more growth at the Atlanta airport this year with new international routes, said spokeswoman Chris Kelly in a statement.
Tad Hutcheson, spokesman for Orlando, Fla.-based AirTran, said the Atlanta airport's large passenger market within the metro Atlanta area and its ability to handle connecting flights help Hartsfield-Jackson retain its top ranking each year.
"What makes Atlanta work is ... you have the world's largest hub in Delta's Atlanta hub. AirTran operates the world's largest low-cost carrier hub," Hutcheson said. "That's what makes Atlanta the world's busiest airport."
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was ranked third, with 686,711 flights in 2007, down 2.3 percent from 702,722 flights in 2006, the FAA said.