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O’Hare May Open Up To New Airlines

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O'Hare International Airport

O’Hare International Airport (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The City of Chicago has struck a deal that could open O’Hare to Virgin America and other new airlines.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s David Roe reports, the new entrants stand potentially to provide fresh competition to United and American airlines.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s David Roe reports

After lengthy negotiations, Delta Airlines is set to hand the city control of the L Concourse in O’Hare Terminal 3. This includes five gates the city could rent to Virgin America, JetBlue, or even European charter tour companies.

Virgin American has been trying to get access to O’Hare gates for almost three years, as part of a plan to triple its size from 34 jets to 111 by 2019. Virgin international flights already take off from O’Hare.

CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl says Virgin could prod the other airlines to upgrade their service. Virgin America offers wi-fi in every flight, live TV, seat power outlets, and gourmet food, even though it is a low cost airline.

Mayor Richard M. Daley proposed the ordinance that would allow the city Department of Aviation to purchase the gates.

Meanwhile, Daley is embroiled in a disagreement with United and American over plans for the $15 billion O’Hare expansion program.

He met with United chief executive officer Jeffrey Smisek and American CEO Gerard Arpey in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, as the airlines continue to resist demands to foot the bill for upgrades.

Both airlines have filed lawsuits over the matter.

Daley complained last week that the airlines seemed to be avoiding him and trying to put off talks about O’Hare until he leaves office.

In a joint statement following Wednesday’s meeting, the two airlines said they and the city remain far apart and that they were “unable to reach an agreement that would permit us to suspend our litigation.”

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