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O'Hare Loses Title Of Busiest Airport As COVID-19 Brings Huge Drops In Air Traffic For 2020

CHICAGO (CBS) -- COVID-19 brought massive drops in flight operations nationwide, but Chicago's O'Hare International Airport had sone of the biggest declines among major U.S. cities and lost the national busiest airport title to Atlanta.

For 2020, O'Hare reported 538,211 arrivals and departures, a massive 41% drop from 2019. Atlanta, which had a 39% drop, led the United States with 548,016 arrivals and departures, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Only LAX, with a 45% decline, fared worse than O'Hare.

Chicago's Midway reported 150,198 flight operations, down 35%, according to the FAA.

March 12 was the busiest day at O'Hare with 2,638 flight operations. In fact, the top five busiest days were in March, before nationwide COVID-19 shutdowns left airports nearly empty for much of the year. The Monday before Christmas, typically one of the busier days of the year, saw 1,683 arrivals and departures at O'Hare--the highest number for December.

2020 Total Fight Operations
(Arrivals plus Departures)

1. ATL 548,016
2. ORD 538,211
3. DFW 514,702
4. DEN 442,571
5. CLT 397,983
6. LAX 379,364
28. MDW 150,198

2019 Total Flight Operations

1. ORD 919,704
2. ATL 904,301
3. DFW 720,007
4. LAX 691,257
5. DEN 640,098
6. CLT 579,147
29. MDW 232,084

On March 14 at O'Hare, international travelers were shoulder to shoulder for hours waiting to get through customs while waiting for coronavirus screenings.

Travelers at O'Hare waited to be screened by agents from Customs and Border Protection and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Airport staff and Chicago police even handed out snacks to people waiting in lines.

Passengers were flooding the airport before a 30-day travel ban on European countries to prevent the spread of the coronavirus went into effect.

On March 17, Midway's control tower had to close after three workers tested positive for COVID-19.

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