(MCT) — The number of passengers boarding flights at Midway Airport last year increased a modest 1.8 percent from 2011, to 9.67 million travelers, enough to surpass the airport's previous high set in 2004, according to data the city released Sunday.
The overall number of passengers and flights handled at O'Hare International Airport, meanwhile, was basically flat last year, statistics posted on the Chicago Department of Aviation website show.
About 66.8 million passengers boarded or deplaned at O'Hare last year, a 0.04 percent increase from 2011, the data show. The number of departing and arriving flights at O'Hare totaled 878,108 in 2012, down 0.08 percent from 2011.
O'Hare's busiest year was 2004, when the airport accommodated 992,471 flights.
O'Hare, which was the world's busiest airport from 1961 through 1997 in both the categories of total flights and passengers, has trailed Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport recently, with Los Angeles International Airport and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport close behind. The Federal Aviation Administration has not yet released official traffic rankings of U.S. airports for 2012.
Midway accommodated a total of 19.5 million departing and arriving passengers in 2012, according to data the city reported to the FAA. The combined number was 3.3 percent higher than the 2011 total.
Planes serving Midway, which is dominated by Southwest Airlines, were also fuller in general in 2012. The total number of flights at Midway, departures and arrivals, was 249,913, which was about 2 percent less than in 2011, the data show.
The 9.67 million departing passengers that Midway served in 2012 exceeded the 85-year-old airport's previous record of 9.5 million boarding, or enplaned, passengers set in 2004, city officials said.
"Midway continues to be one of the fastest growing airports in the U.S. and has emerged as one of the nation's premier airports for domestic service," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.
Five airlines serving Midway provide more than 510 daily flights to about 65 cities, according to the Aviation Department.
The Emanuel administration is exploring opportunities to create a public-private partnership of Midway's operations, which could potentially generate a cash windfall to bolster the city budget. The city recently issued a request for qualifications, a step toward possibly partly privatizing Midway's operations in the future. Responses from interested parties are due this month.
The effort is being undertaken in the wake of the city's highly controversial parking meter privatization under former Mayor Richard M. Daley. The 2008 deal led to a spree of annual increases in on-street parking rates, fueling widespread anger among drivers and complaints from businesses.
In addition, the city quickly spent the upfront $1.1 billion payment that Chicago Parking Meters LLC paid to Chicago to obtain the 75-year parking meter lease.