Southwest Airlines launches first-ever service at O’Hare

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the expansion to O’Hare underscores the strength of Chicago’s aviation market.

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Ground traffic is seen from the control tower at O’Hare International Airport in 2015.

Southwest Airlines jets have now joined these airliners from other carriers, shown at O’Hare International Airport in 2015.

Associated Press file photo

Southwest Airlines on Sunday launched service at O’Hare International Airport, ending more than 30 years of exclusive Chicago service at Midway Airport.

The airline on Valentine’s Day started nonstop flights to Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Nashville and Phoenix, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. Starting March 13, Southwest will also begin Saturday-only service to Orlando.

In a statement, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the expansion to O’Hare “underscores the strength of Chicago’s aviation market and the key role the city will play in the recovery of an airline industry severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Southwest has operated from Midway International Airport since March 1985, providing about 250 departures a day from Midway during peak seasons to 95 destinations, making Chicago the second-largest city in Southwest’s system by capacity, according to the CDA.

A Southwest Airlines jet takes off at Midway Airport.

Southwest Airlines jets at Midway Airport. Though the airline has begun service from O’Hare Airport, Midway will remain Southwest’s primary Chicago airport. Southwest offers up to 200 flights a day from Midway.

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Despite Southwest dropping 90,000 flights across the country during the pandemic, some experts have said the expansion was a potentially smart move for the airline that will benefit Chicago.

The expansion to O’Hare will bring more options to Chicago travelers, Southwest Vice President Dave Harvey said.

“These additional flights put the flexible policies and world-class hospitality our Midway Airport customers already enjoy, on the North Side and further the ease of flying Southwest without a longer commute,” Harvey said in a statement.

Southwest first announced the expected expansion in October. The company said it employs more than 4,800 people in the city. Midway will remain Southwest’s primary Chicago airport, with up to 200 flights a day in the coming months, the company said.

Southwest Airlines passengers check in for flights at Midway Airport in January 2018.

Southwest Airlines passengers check in for flights at Midway Airport. Southwest is the dominant player at Midway, but on Sunday began offering flights at O’Hare Airport, as well.

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