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Growth Strategies

Airport, 2010

Expect bumps, delays and, eventually, smoother takeoffs.
3 min read

This story appears in the May 2010 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
35.1 million passengers
Hub for Air Tran, Delta

On-Time Arrivals/Departures Rank
29/27 (out of 31 airports ranked)

Chaos Quotient
Moderate. The rising Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal will add a 28-gate concourse to ATL in 2012 and vastly simplify baggage claim.

Latest Upgrades

  • State-of-the-art rental-car center with an elevated people mover that also stops at Georgia International Convention Center.
  • New dog park at the main terminal; bags provided.

Mayday! Mayday!
Watch out for renovation work in Concourse E, which currently serves international passengers and is getting a $15 millionupgrade this year.


Chicago O'Hare International Airport
24.4 million passengers
Hub for American and United

On-Time Arrivals/Departures Rank

Chaos Quotient
High. ORD is in the midst of a long-term modernization project, some say the biggest at a U.S. airport. When the project is finished, delays are expected to greatly decrease, especially in bad weather.

Latest Upgrades

  • America's Dog, known for Chicago-style frankfurters, opens in Terminal 3 this spring.
  • Boingo Network Wi-Fi available throughout terminals; $6.95 for 24 hours.

Mayday! Mayday!
Debate continues about creating an airport bypass that would connect Interstates 90 and 294. Meanwhile, highway access remains torturous.

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
22 million passengers
Hub for American

On-Time Arrivals/Departures Rank

Chaos Quotient
Tolerable. DFW is renovating Terminals A, B, C and E, which haven't been updated since opening in 1974.Until finished--sigh, in 2017--each facility temporarily will lose one-third of its floor space to construction.

Latest Upgrades

  • Transportation monitors with Google Traffic: real-time info on road congestion.
  • Passenger "comfort zones" with easy chairs and recliners.
  • Free Samsung power poles throughout the terminals.

Mayday! Mayday!
Better rent a car. The Dallas Area Rapid Transit rail link from the airport to town remains under construction and is not scheduled for completion until 2013.

Denver International Airport
20 million passengers
Hub for Frontier and United

On-Time Arrivals/Departures Rank

Chaos Quotient
Moderate. A major South Terminal redevelopment is underway that includes a light-rail station and the airport's first on-site hotel, a Westin with a spa. A downtown rail connection opens in 2015, but construction shouldn't affect traffic.

Latest Upgrades

  • QuickPark enables drivers to swipe credit cards upon entering and exiting the lots, with no tickets to keep track of and fees automatically charged to the card.
  • DEN increasingly relies on locally generated solar energy.

Mayday! Mayday!
The airport is almost 30 miles from downtown. Although an airport-city train is under construction, it's still a shuttle-bus/rental-car situation, made more complicated by roadwork all around Denver, especially in the north-south Interstate 25 corridor.

Los Angeles International Airport
18.1 million passengers
Hub for American, Delta, Southwest and United

On-Time Arrivals/Departures Rank

Chaos Quotient
Constant. Dwell Magazine didn't name LAX "worst in the country" for nothing. Renovations were just completed at Tom Bradley International Terminal, though, including an outpost of Pink's, the L.A. hot dog legend.

Latest Upgrades

  • Passengers in Bradley and Terminal 3 (Alaska Air, Horizon) can drop off bags (no waiting at scanners).
  • The observation deck in the space-age Theme Building reopens this spring.

Mayday! Mayday!

  • Parking Lot B closed in January, making Lot C the cheapest place to park: $12 a day, $2 more than erstwhile Lot B.
  • Escalator and elevator projects in Terminals 2, 3, 5 and 6 may cause detours.

Note: Arrivals/Departures ranking based on data from January through December 2009; passenger figures are from January through October 2009.
Sources: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Homeland Security, Air Transport Association, World Travel Guide

Chart compiled by Susan Spano.

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