Report: United Balking At O’Hare Expansion Pace

CHICAGO (WBBM/CBS) — As Mayor Richard M. Daley winds down his time in office, one of his pet projects is running into headwinds.

WBBM Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports that Chicago-based United Airlines reportedly is balking at the pace of the O’Hare Modernization Program.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger Reports

The O’Hare expansion program has been flying along, but now, Crain’s Chicago Business reports United wants to slow it down.

The projected growth in air traffic envisioned when the project first began has not materialized, first because of the shocks of Sept. 11, 2001, and more recently because of the Great Recession.

DePaul University aviation expert Joe Schwieterman says that all has the airlines rethinking their commitment.

“The city has built an entire new north runway. They’ve extended others. They’re working on the runway through the old cemetery. They’ve made some great progress,” Schwieterman said. “But Phase 2 requires some massive investments, and that’s relocating Irving Park Road. That’s where I think the real pressure is on the airlines.”

Among the objections, United and American Airlines have been resisting calls to help pay for a new western terminal that would be used primarily by other carriers.

Earlier this year, the City Council approved a plan to issue $1 billion in bonds for the O’Hare expansion project.

The project calls for building one new runway, extending another runway and relocating a third. A new northern runway opened in November2008, and about 500 former homes and businesses in west suburban Bensenville are being demolished to make way for the expanded airport.

St. Johannes Cemetery is also being moved for the project.

But overall, the $15 billion expansion project is still less than halfway done.

With Mayor Daley leaving office, it’s not known how committed his successor will be to O’Hare expansion.

  • Bob Hamilton

    The program should be sped up not slowed down.

  • Jason

    Someone call Virgin America, they actually want to be part of this airport.

  • Vernon Demerest

    Why is United’s opinion even relevant? Remember, they have had a long trip through bankruptcy and mybe gone tomorrow. Chicago needs to do what is in Chicago’s best interests, not United’s.. In the 1960s and 70s, United didn’t like the expansion of Omaha’s airport either. The Omaha Airport Authority did what was best for Omaha, not United and expanded the airport. Our elected offiicials account to us, the voters, not United.

  • Roland

    Because United will end up paying for this expansion, or at least part of it.

    If Chicago doesn’t work with United, United can start cutting service and routing it elsewhere to save on costs, and that would hurt Chicago quite a bit. Don’t think for one moment that United has to stay in Chicago.

  • Jeremy

    It’s Called “Free Market” and if United doesn’t want to grow out of Chicago, then others will i.e. American Airlines, Jet Blue, and Virgin American. So United can either expand to keep market share, or pull back and let others grow and then deal with more direct competition. This is the nature of busniess and although United has been very dedicated to Chicago since the days of deregulation, they can’t make up the rules that others play by as they go along.

  • JD

    I thought this whole modernization program was suppose to make ORD more uniform to the other airports (ATL, LAX, etc) making it all parallel runways, thus making it “safer” to operate in and out of….? Now United is balking at that??? I thought they were ‘complaining’ at the fact that ORD was unsafe given its current runway configuration???? They better be careful at what they say. Can someone ask United and clarify that for me???

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