High-Flying Counties

On September 29, 2016 · 4 Comments

With all my discussions of Chicago’s Midway and O’Hare airports recently, it dawned on me that both of them fell within Cook County, Illinois. Well, technically a corner of O’Hare extended into neighboring DuPage County. The important stuff like the terminals and most of the runways remained within Cook so I called it close enough. Think of the fortunate citizens of Cook County. They could draw upon the convenience, prestige and tax revenue of two international airports within their midst. Who else could say that?

Twelve Mile Circle needed to know.


Not Los Angeles County, California


bob hope, burbank
bob hope, burbank. Photo by Karol Franks on Flickr (cc)

The biggest cities in the United States provided an obvious starting point. The greater Los Angeles, California metropolitan area simply oozed with airports. I’d traveled to some of them and they certainly seemed important. Unfortunately the area sprawled in many directions across multiple jurisdictions. Los Angeles County claimed the mighty Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). However Ontario International Airport (ONT) fell within San Bernardino County and John Wayne Airport (SNA) fell within Orange County.

I guess if anyone wanted to get picky we should also consider Bob Hope Airport (BUR) and Long Beach Airport (LGB), both in Los Angeles County. Neither provided regularly-scheduled international service so I felt that disqualified them. Feel free to argue otherwise. I just didn’t put them in the same category as the others although Long Beach did seem to have at least one daily flight going all the way to New York City. Anyway I had to draw the line somewhere so international service seemed to be as good an indicator as any. Los Angeles County, by that strict definition, had only one major airport.


Queens County, New York


LaGuardia Airport
LaGuardia Airport. Photo by mifl68 on Flickr (cc)

I didn’t have to bend the rules at all for New York City. The borough of Queens — coterminous with Queens County — completely encapsulated two high-traffic airports. LaGuardia (LGA) stood at the northern end and John F. Kennedy (JFK) at the southern. However, LaGuardia didn’t have a border control facility. Did 12MC just violate its own arbitrary rule about requiring international flights? Actually, no. LaGuardia could accept flights from international locations with U.S. border preclearance facilities (e.g., Toronto). I flew into a U.S. airport (not LaGuardia) a couple of years ago from Ireland with preclearance. It was wonderful to deplane at my destination and simply walk away without the hassle of immigration and customs. It lets travelers get past those formalities before boarding instead of at the end, when everyone just wants to finish the trip and get out of there.

Totally unrelated to the topic, people arriving at LaGuardia can rent cars there. I know it sounded crazy that anyone would ever want to rent a car at LaGuardia given its proximity to Manhattan. In my case I had to go to a work location way out on Long Island. Flights to Islip cost a fortune so I actually rented a car at LaGuardia and drove in the opposite direction, away from the city. It can be done.


Dallas and Harris Counties, Texas


Logan Airport
Southwest Airlines at Logan Airport. My own photo.

Texas offered two counties with dual airports, both due in large part to Southwest Airlines. Most flights to Dallas used Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW). The border between Dallas County and Tarrant County ran practically straight through the middle of the airport. However, Dallas also featured Love Field (DAL). It used to be the primary airport for Dallas until DFW took over in the 1970’s. Traffic plummeted at Love Field when that happened. It also allowed the upstart Southwest Airlines to operate with reduced costs because gates were cheaper there. Southwest based its entire network at Love Field and built from there to become a major airline. In recognition, Southwest adopted the New York Stock Exchange symbol LUV and built a heart into its logo.

Harris County, anchored by the city of Houston, offered a similar story. George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) became the predominant airport in the late 1960’s. Earlier-established Hobby Airport (HOU) nearly fell by the wayside as a result. Nobody flew out of Hobby and it faced demolition until Southwest Airlines started operating there in the 1970’s.

I noticed a street just south of the property called Braniff Street (map). The old Braniff International Airways was a dominant carrier at Hobby Airport during its original heyday. Braniff flew for more than fifty years before declaring bankruptcy and halting all flights in 1982. Nonetheless the name lived on in a way along a short stretch of asphalt.

Did I miss any other counties with two or more major/international airports?

On September 29, 2016 · 4 Comments

4 Responses to “High-Flying Counties”

  1. Tim says:

    Dallas Love Field is a major airport but is explicitly prohibited by federal law from having regularly scheduled commercial air service beyond the contiguous 48 states.

  2. Joe says:

    Complete side bar, but while Bob Hope Airport may not meet the criteria set here as a major airport (it doesn’t even have jet ways), I have found it is an awesome place to fly in and out of. On one occasion I was hotel lobby to airport gate in 16 minutes (and I’d say at least 5 of that was driving from the hotel). I’ve never flown into LAX, nor would I ever plan to when visiting LA if I can avoid it.

  3. Peter says:

    Newark Airport straddles the boundary between Essex and Union counties. This seemingly trivial distinction used to be potentially significant if you took a cab from the airport to Manhattan or other semi-distant locations. One of the airport’s three terminals is in Union County, and only taxis licensed in that county could pick up fares at the terminal. They charged a lot more for a ride into Manhattan than did the Essex County cabs serving the other terminals.

    IINM, the fares are now the same for each terminal.

    • At DCA, when you get to the front of the line at the taxi stand the dispatcher asks where you’re heading. Based on that, you’re placed in a taxi licensed for Virginia, Maryland or the District, with the fares/rules for that jurisdiction applying to your ride.

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