United adding flights at O’Hare for the DNC

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United adding flights at O'Hare for the DNC

United Airlines is adding 118 flights to and from Chicago in August, as the city gears up for the Democratic National Convention and the tens of thousands of visitors the event is expected to bring to Chicago to mark the renomination of President Joe Biden.

The additional flights from the Chicago-based airline are a boon to O’Hare International Airport, a key economic driver for the city where traffic has lagged pre-pandemic levels.

They bring United, one of O’Hare’s two main carriers, to its largest schedule from O’Hare since 2019, the carrier said. That includes an extra 38 flights between O’Hare and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, which serves the District of Columbia. Other additional flights will go to cities such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Austin, Phoenix, San Diego and Seattle.

All told, the carrier will operate more than 530 flights daily at O’Hare on its busiest days, United said.

The additional flights come as the city prepares for the economic and security impacts of the four-day convention, which is expected to bring a slew of politicians, visitors and protesters in August. The DNC Host Committee estimates the convention could bring about 50,000 visitors, 20,000 media members and 5,500 delegates, alternates and guests to the city.

For its part, United’s preparations at O’Hare bring the amount of scheduled space on flights out of the airport in August to slightly higher than the number of seats scheduled before the pandemic. But overall at O’Hare, airlines have still scheduled fewer flights and fewer seats out of the airport than they did in summer 2019, according to data from aviation firm Cirium.

O’Hare’s other main carrier, American Airlines, hasn’t updated its schedule for the convention, a spokeswoman said. The airline has eight daily flights between Chicago and Reagan National.

Southwest, which is the primary carrier at Midway, also does not plan to add flights for the convention. A spokesman said the airline will have 223 flights a day out of Midway during the convention, including six per day between Midway and Reagan National, and up to six per day between Midway and Baltimore. The airline will also have two daily flights between Baltimore and O’Hare, where the carrier previously announced it was trimming its schedule.

United is also adding 72 flights to and from Milwaukee for the Republican National Convention in July, including from Chicago, the carrier said. The additional flights will increase the carrier’s capacity in Milwaukee by 75%, United said.

“These conventions are steeped in tradition and have now evolved to become a weeklong celebration of our political process,” said Patrick Quayle, United’s senior vice president of global network planning and alliances, in a statement. “We’re proud to give people even more options to visit two great cities, and participate in these historic events and make their voices heard.”

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