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LaGuardia Out, Chicago Midway In: America’s Busiest Airports List



The third quarter of the year (July-September) is normally the most important for airlines based in the northern hemisphere as it coincides with the peak of the summer. Airlines benefit from higher demand and fares, providing an important war chest for going into the winter. Looking at the USA’s top-25 airports, we see that Q3 capacity is down by 17%, a loss of 54 million seats. LaGuardia has fallen out of the list while Chicago Midway is in.


Top-25 airports: down by 54 million seats


The USA’s top-25 airports have 246.8 million round-trip seats in Q3 2021, based on schedule information submitted by airlines serving them to aviation data experts OAG. This is down by 18% from 301.1 million in Q3 2019. Of course, the decline is especially attributable to the international market, reduced as it is by 40%.


All change: which airports are up and down?


While four airports – Salt Lake City, Denver, Phoenix, Miami – now have more seats than they did before the pandemic, San Francisco remains very badly hit. Meanwhile, New York La Guardia – which was 20th – has fallen out of the top-25 table because of its strong focus on business travel, with Chicago Midway replacing it (down by just 9.7%).


  • Salt Lake City: +6.9% change in seats in Q3 2021 versus Q3 2019

  • Denver: +1.6%

  • Phoenix: +0.9%

  • Miami: +0.3%

  • Orlando: -2.9%

  • Houston Intercontinental: -3.8%

  • Dallas Fort Worth: -4.1%

  • Fort Lauderdale: -4.8%

  • Charlotte: -6.2%

  • Las Vegas: -6.6%

  • Seattle: -14.1%

  • Atlanta: -16.3%

  • Chicago O’Hare: -18.8%

  • Baltimore: -20.8%

  • Washington Dulles: -21.3%

  • Newark: -22.8%

  • Minneapolis: -24.5%

  • Detroit: -24.8%

  • San Diego: -25.9%

  • Los Angeles: -28.8%

  • Philadelphia: -29.3%

  • New York JFK: -32.7%

  • Boston: -34.9%

  • New York La Guardia: -45.6%

  • San Francisco: -46.6%

New York La Guardia is out – for now


It should not come as a huge surprise that LaGuardia has been (temporarily) pushed out of the top-25 US airports list. It hasn’t gone far, though: it is now 28th, OAG data confirms, behind Nashville and Tampa and ahead of Honolulu and Austin.


Delta, which remains very much LaGuardia’s number-one airline, has cut over four in ten seats this quarter (-43%), with other significant domestic reductions by United (-54%), American (-50%), and Southwest (-46%).


Ultra-low-cost carriers fared less badly


As usual, though, ultra-low-cost carriers are swimming into the tide. Frontier is up marginally (+0.4%), although it remains firmly LaGuardia’s smallest airline by capacity with its network of three destinations (Atlanta, Miami, and Orlando).


Meanwhile, while Spirit is down by ‘only’ 6%, although funnily enough, its network jumped from five to eight destinations. Spirit’s new La Guardia-Los Angeles route was among 310 US routes to begin in 52 days.


S: Simple Flying


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