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Daley Wonders If Airlines Stalling O’Hare Talks

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Mayor Richard Daley. (CBS)

Mayor Richard Daley. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Richard M. Daley questioned whether two major airlines at O’Hare International Airport are trying to stall on plans to expand O’Hare until after the upcoming mayoral election.

City officials want to continue with the plan to expand O’Hare airport with new runways while construction costs are low and the jobs are needed more than ever. United and American Airlines have been seeking to push back the second phase of the expansion plan until there is more passenger demand for extra flights and more need for additional runways.

Daley was scheduled to meet with officials from the two airlines to discuss O’Hare expansion on Thursday, but the airlines called off the meeting. The airlines have also met with U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk in an effort to hammer out a compromise on O’Hare.

“It was such an emergency they went to Senator Durbin and Senator Kirk and they said ‘This is an emergency, we want to meet the mayor,'” Daley said Thursday. “I said fine and now there’s no such an emergency. I just wonder if they’re waiting for a certain date in February and the city of Chicago is saying that maybe the mayor won’t be around. I’ll be around till May 16th.”

Last month, United and American filed a lawsuit to block the second phase of the expansion plan, arguing that contracts which give them the authority to veto major O’Hare projects that would increase their operation costs. To help fund the plan, the city would increase landing fees and other taxes on the airlines.

Daley has said that, when he agreed to meet with airline officials on Thursday, he asked them to present their own proposals for how to proceed with expanding O’Hare, but now it appears they are stalling.

“We had a meeting scheduled today and they canceled it, the airlines canceled it,” Daley said, adding that he offered to meet them on any other day over the next week and a half — even on any of the next two Sundays — but, so far, the airlines have only said maybe to a meeting a week from Tuesday.

Representatives for the airlines have said that Thursday’s meeting was canceled because of the blizzard that hit Chicago on Tuesday, forcing airlines to cancel virtually all flights in and out of Chicago from Tuesday afternoon until Wednesday night.

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