The Great O’Hare Market Share Fight of 2019

The Titanic Shift in Chicago Nobody Noticed

Who controls the Chicago O’Hare domestic market? The answer is complicated. Until as recently as Q4 2018, the answer has surprisingly been American… not United. And it hasn’t even been close. In fact, American enjoyed a 7 point advantage over United as early as Q1 2016, in United’s own back yard.

Things have changed.

When asked how United has changed in the past two years with the new management, I often point to the ORD example. Most don’t realize two things:

  1. United was not the airline serving the most of the local Chicago market
  2. They are now

Looking at capacity share, United has long held the crown at O’Hare. However, it isn’t until recently that United has begun adding smaller markets with regional jets from ORD to boost that point-of-sale presence.

The end result is a new old battleground in Chicago. American will continue to compete fiercely, and we may see the lines shift several times before an end-state is found.

The lines in the Chicago fight have been drawn. Who will win is still to be determined, but what we do know is we find the fight for the ORD passenger will continue to rage.

There are many terms and theories for the competitive nature of the Chicago market. We believe each is best summed up as such: It’s on like Donkey Kong.

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1 year ago

It’s actually three years since Kirby arrived. The rest of the story is this: Since 2015, total domestic O&D has increased by about 10% in Chicago. It turns out there’s another airport in Chicago (Midway) and for some purposes, O’Hare and Midway are substitutes. In 2015, Southwest also carried more passengers in/out of Chicago than United. In 2015, UA did about 25% of Chicago O&D, American and Southwest each a bit more than 27% (American including a few residual US-coded flights). OAs did a bit less than 21%. Today (YE2Q19), United has a bit less than 30% market share. AA’s… Read more »

1 year ago

More… If you look at the roughly 3% reduction in OA Chicagoland market share from 2015 thru YE2Q19, you can split it into ULCCs and non-ULCCs. ULCC market share in Chicagoland has actually decreased by almost 2 percentage points, whereas non-ULCC OA market share has decreased by only 1 percentage point. So it’s an interesting example of a major metro area where ULCCs seem to be fading.

Tom Bacon
1 year ago

Good job, Courtney! Yes, I think we all remember United’s long-time superior position in Chicago – I hadn’t realized that American had actually overtaken them some years back. This is truly one of the longest battles for share in the industry.