Should Midway expand their runways?

Chicago’s Midway airport is Chicago’s second largest airport, only to O’hare. With Southwest having a main hub and presence in Midway as well as a few other carriers servicing the airport, Midway is looking to be a great alternative to the vast size and amount of traffic O’hare has to offer. With Midway being such a major airport in the Chicago area you would think that it would be fairly easy to land at. However Midway is actually a very difficult airport to land at due to its runway length. In many ways this can be looked at the same way with KLGA.

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(Photo by DNAinfo)

With two of it’s longest runways being only 6,500 feet long, compared to all of O’hares runways being more than 7,000 feet long. These lengths can make it quite difficult for the pilot to land the plane at Midway and does not allow for many aircraft larger then a 737-800 to land at Midway. Even 737’s have a difficult time landing at Midway, hence the SWA1248 flight that had overshot the runway at MDW back in 2005. Do you think that Midway should expand one or more of their runways by a few hundred or a thousand feet? Do you think this would allow more low cost transatlantic carriers to consider MDW over ORD, such as WOW Air, or Iceland Air? Or will this allow for Southwest to expand their routs out of MDW for more long haul and heavier flights with their MAX 8’s?

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It seems like it isn’t even possible to expand them any more than an inch. Also O’Hare steals all the international traffic, so there is no need to for larger aircraft than the 737.

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This would have a 95% chance of not happening. Too much residential growth around the airport. And trying to convince the people there to give up their homes/shops/resuatrants wouldn’t be an easy task.

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I think the question is not should they, but can they?

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It definitely seems like runway extensions could be considered, but there doesn’t appear to be much room to expand into…

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Southwest has already begun moving flights and aircraft based at midway over to STL. Midway doesn’t have the expandabillity necessary for Southwest to seriously value it as a future long term major hub of theirs.

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No. There is no point. If/when Southwest gets bigger planes then maybe that would make sense. But as O’hare begins work on the new T2 “Global Terminal” and Terminal 1 expansion in addition to the future hyperloop to and from the city, Midway becomes a lot less useful.

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I work at the airport, it’s impossible it is essentially surrounded by houses…

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Not needed. Midway is a very strategic hub for SWA and hence why they decide to fly there. Since it’s located in the middle of the country, aircraft heading out of Midway shouldn’t be that close to MTOW and 6,500 feet is plenty of runway for a heavy 737-700 or 75% loaded 737-800. A good route to look at is the MDW-SJU route, it’s about 4 hours and 30 minutes and probably the longest route out of MDW. The departing leg is only served by 737-700s but coming back it’s on the 737-800. I don’t see runway length as a real issue here.

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I seriously can’t see Midway expanding anytime soon. It’s too residentially populated. Looks like Midway might become strictly an airport made for aircraft similar to the 737. (Strictly 737-700,800, 757, and a319/320 and maybe an a321.) Besides Midway is sometimes only convenient if you live around that area and you don’t want the hassle of O’Hare. If you lived between Midway and O’Hare, and had to go transatlantic or somewhere far, your only option is Chicago. If Midway (Very likely not) went out of business, it would serve as a great GA airport.

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No. To much of a hastle to actually do that. Also, WOW and Iceland have little to no market to serve at MDW. The only people they would serve is Southwest customers and I’m willing to be that they aren’t really looking to go to Europe. They also already serve O’Hare. What would be the point of going to MDW?

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Delta occasionally has a 757 on the C gates…

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Well the 757 is good for short field takeoffs.

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Even on Infinite Flight I struggle to take off from midway in a 737. I personally think they should.

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I’d need a STOL to land there or EESTOL or even VTOL

It would be nice to see that happen, but if you’ve flown into MDW you’ll know that it’s literally surrounded by a highway and houses, any expansion would not be possible.

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Yeah they need to expand, especially the 4s/22s runways but I don’t think the airport will.

As many have said, the answer to ‘should’ is almost certainly yes, the answer to ‘will’ is far closer to no for a few reasons.

  1. It is incredibly difficult to secure the land to do so. Eminent domain would almost certainly need to be exercised, and doing so is costly, time consuming, and politically toxic. The following article provides nice insight into the challenges the city faced when working on the O’hare runway expansion efforts: https://www.dailyherald.com/article/20121228/news/712289857/
    This set of articles also outline the difficulty the city has had making any progress on acquiring land related to runways at Midway: http://www.aviationpros.com/news/10403954/chicagos-midway-land-rush
    http://www.airportspotting.com/chicago-midway-buffer-zones-created/
  2. O’hare is a much bigger priority, as it drives 8x as much economic activity (~$30B vs ~$4B). It is the primary international gateway, provides significantly more jobs, and brings in a lot more revenue. The financial summaries on page 6 outline why O’hare is a much bigger priority for the city. http://illinoisairportsmeanbusiness.com/IL-Econ_ExecutiveSummary.pdf
    The city is also already committed to a major modernization at Midway, which will probably eat up all the resources they are willing to commit to it: https://www.flychicago.com/sites/midwaymodernization/SiteCollectionDocuments/mmp-concessions-redevelopment-fact-sheet.pdf
  3. United and AA, particularly United as they are headquartered in Chicago, have tremendous influence over how aviation projects unfold in Chicago. I would not expect either of them to encourage runway expansion that would potentially increase competition, especially as they are about to foot the bill for the improvements at O’hare.
  4. This leaves Southwest as the only major proponent and likely funder of a runway expansion at Midway. Doing so would be high risk, result in a high financial cost, and disrupt activities at their second largest base. It seems likely they would rather lean on Boeing, as the worlds largest 737 operator, to ensure they continue to make planes that can be useful across their network (including Midway) https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-26/southwest-jet-order-to-give-boeing-its-biggest-737-max-fleet
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They can’t really because they have major roads and homes all around it unless the airport would pay to move them to expand.

I love these kinda posts as I would love to see many runways at many different airports expanded to accomodate larger aircraft from huge airlines in the US and even international airlines. One airport specifically is my home airport, KBUF, could use a runway expansion like MDW could… But there are plenty of things that will make this a very costly project for both airports… With that being said though that doesn’t mean it’s impossible because I mean Heathrow is destroying a lot to build it’s third runway so it can be done it’s just the matter of money and if the airport really needs it or not…

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