But WN's primary target in serving ORD and IAH probably isn't connecting traffic, either. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say WN's most likely destinations from ORD will be BWI, DEN, DAL, LAS, MCO, and PHX. They're all in the top 15 CHI O&D markets and most have a decent component of leisure traffic. Also, serving ORD isn't just about Chicago-based travelers -- it's also about serving customers in their large markets who would prefer to use WN but were perhaps taking AA or UA because the choice of airport was important (this can also be said about IAH).
I don't understand why people insist on making this assertion about airport choice or people on the north side, Northern and Western suburbs don't use MDW and that people on the south side, South, Southwest and Northwest Indiana only use MDW. If this assertion were true then what you are also saying is the bulk of Chicagoans who use ORD only come from points north of downtown and the from the Western suburbs north to Wisconsin. There are a lot of people who live on the southside of the city, people who live in the South suburbs, Southwest suburbs, and Northwest Indiana who fly out of ORD on domestic flights. The same is true of MDW, Southwest's appeal extends far beyond downtown Chicago people travel from all over the Chicagoland region to MDW to fly on WN. Both airports are easily accessible no matter the mode of transportation a person uses to access the airport.
If WN wants to come to ORD they are more than welcome but this isn't about them wanting to reach passengers who refused to fly WN because they didn't want to drive or take the train to MDW. One thing Chicago and the entire Chicagoland region has gotten right is both of our airports are easily accessible. (For people really familiar with Chicago and the battle for a third airpot they know accessibility is one of the main sticking points over Petone.) Depending on where you live in the Northern or Western suburbs you don't even need to drive through the city (I-90/94) to reach MDW there are several expressways that link up with I-55 to get you MDW.
Both airports have crossover appeal and the facts are even though WN is coming to ORD they will not have sizable operation any time soon even at T5. I think everyone is focusing on the fact the city is adding 6 or 7 new gates to T5 which is great. However what people are forgetting is until T2 is torn down and the new World Terminal is built T5 will continue to be the only international terminal at ORD
. In addition to handling all the international inbounds at some point DL will have to move their entire ORD operation to T5 for T2 to be demolished. International traffic is down now, but come 2022 I think most airlines are expecting to see measurable increasing in international demand especially if there is a vaccine which has been distributed world wide. I honestly think until the World Terminal is built WN's may not be able to operate any flights out of ORD between the hours of 11a.m. through 7p.m. especially during the spring/summer travel period. Once Delta move into T5 and as travel recovers worldwide, T5 will become a traffic jam all over again until United/Star and AA/OneWorld make their exit for the new T2 World Terminal.
People keep trying to make this about AA and UA when the truth is it is in the beginning as travel recovers
it will be more about Delta. Delta already runs a pretty sizable operation out of ORD. Delta already occupies I believe 7 or 8 gates at out of T2. Although terminal 5 is being expanded the city is only adding 6 or 7 gates and yes the low M gates will be reconfigured. However at the end of the day T5 will go from 21 total gates today to a total of either 27 or 28 total gates when construction is complete. I believe ORD has around 4 maybe 5 remote parking gates at T5 where aircraft are towed if they have a long layover. Both AA and UA between the hours of 10a.m. through 8p.m. have a 1 hour block time agreement with the city. This means an AA or UA International inbound can occupy a T5 gate for up to 1 hour before penalties are applied. (United was the worst offender which is why the city now charges by the minute if an AA or UA aircraft is still on the gate after 1 hour.)
I think the two biggest factors that will effect the size of WN's operation at ORD especially in the beginning
are the international outlook (how quickly the city expect International traffic to recover at T5) and secondly the cities lease agreement with Delta Airlines. More specifically how many gates at T5 does Delta's lease guarantee them access to until demolition and construction are complete on the new T2 World Terminal.