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Update: O'Hare Overhaul Gets American OK

American Airlines set to be onboard

March 15, 2018
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and American Airlines came to terms

The Chicago Tribune reports Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and American Airlines came to terms Wednesday night, effectively ending American's opposition to the airport expansion project.

At issue is the number of gates UA and AA would have under the new expansion plan which includes 35 new gates. When Emanuel introduced the new mega-modernization of O'Hare International Airport two weeks ago, American said the mayor had cut a deal with its domestic rival, United Airlines, to give UA more gates.

Improvements and changes at O'Hare are paid from from the fees airlines pay to the airport. Both United and American have veto power over changes as part of their lease agreement so having both carriers on board with the 8-year expansion is mandatory.

Chicago-style politics have played out over the past two weeks, resulting in Emanuel agreeing to speed up construction on three new American gates in exchange for AA's cooperation.

Initially, Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans said the city could not accommodate American’s request to speed up the construction of three new gates on the airport’s L concourse because “every communication cable in O’Hare” is in that area and the wires would have to be “carefully relocated.”

While the city has agreed to speed up construction on the three gates, no schedule or deadline has been released.

Once the O'Hare expansion begins, the 55-year-old Terminal 2 will be torn down to make way for a new “Global Terminal” with wider concourses and gates to accommodate large international flights. Terminals 1, 3 and 5 will be renovated, two new satellite concourses will be built and connected by a pedestrian tunnel.  Nore than 3.1 million square feet of terminal space will be added to O’Hare — a 72 percent increase.

"As Chicago's hometown airline, we welcome this bold vision for a modern O'Hare that will vastly improve the traveling experience and provide United’s 15,000 Chicago-based team members with the resources they need to deliver the best possible service, convenience and reliability to our customers. We applaud Mayor Emanuel for providing leadership and charting a future for O'Hare that will allow Chicago to compete and win on a global scale,” said United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz. "This agreement not only gives O'Hare a competitive edge against other airports, but also ensures competition thrives between airlines, so that - in the end - customers win. We look forward to continue growing at O'Hare, which is already our busiest hub, and serving the City as one of the region's largest private sector employers.”

“This landmark plan for a redeveloped O’Hare will transform the airport experience for travelers and allow American Airlines to continue to invest and grow in the city of Chicago," said American Airlines CEO Doug Parker. "We are strongly supportive of this agreement because it is what is best for the city of Chicago, our 9,300 Chicago team members and our customers. Thank you to Mayor Emanuel for his commitment to ensuring Chicago is on the leading edge of airport innovation. The Mayor and his team worked tirelessly and creatively to structure an agreement that keeps competition thriving at O’Hare. We look forward to growing at O’Hare in the years to come.”

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