This article was updated with additional context on YOW's U.S. service routes.
The Ottawa airport is losing three daily round-trip flights to Chicago starting in June, but is expecting to get them back next spring.
Representatives for both United Airlines and the Ottawa International Airport Authority confirmed Monday morning that the U.S. airline is temporarily suspending its service between YOW and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport beginning June 6. United's spokesperson said the airline expects to resume service in March 2020.
"In an effort to best utilize our growing fleet of regional aircraft during the upcoming busy summer travel season, we are temporarily suspending United Express service between Chicago and Ottawa," said United's spokesperson in an email to OBJ.
United previously ran up to three daily round-trip flights between Ottawa and the busy Illinois airport – the U.S. airline’s largest travel hub – and will continue its direct flights from YOW to Washington-Dulles (IAD) and Newark (EWR).
News that YOW would lose its direct connection to the world’s sixth-busiest airport frustrated some members of Ottawa’s business community on social media, who labeled it a blow to the city’s international credibility.
YOW’s spokesperson said the airport authority was “disappointed” in United’s decision to suspend the “popular” Chicago service, but noted that the airport will still serve connections to numerous U.S. connections this summer. In addition to United’s 40-total weekly flights to IAD and EWR, Ottawa hosts 21 weekly flights to Philadelphia via American Airlines as well as 13 weekly flights to Detroit and 13 daily flights to La Guardia via Delta Airlines.
The spokesperson noted that YOW service will continue to be affected by the retirement of aging 50-seat jets in the near future, as the Ottawa airport is regularly serviced by these medium-sized aircraft; 75-seat jets will likely replace the outgoing 50-seat models.
Ottawa travellers missing the O’Hare flights in the interim could also take advantage of new United Express service from the Ogdensburg Airport to Chicago launching in May.
The Ottawa airport’s transborder traffic was on the rise heading into 2019, with some 720,770 passengers travelling between Canada and the U.S. through YOW in 2018 – up 10 per cent from the previous year.