City agrees to deal with American Airlines over O'Hare expansion plan

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American Airlines has dropped its opposition to an expansion plan at O'Hare Airport. (WLS)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has agreed to a deal with American Airlines that could rescue the mayor's massive expansion plan for O'Hare. The plan would double the size of the airport.

The deal came just in time for Thursday's pivotal Aviation Committee meeting at City Hall.

The mayor struck a deal with American Airlines late Wednesday night to resolve a gate dispute that threatened to hold back his plans to expand O'Hare.

Prior to Wednesday's deal, American Airlines had issued a complaint, saying the mayor's original plan to expand O'Hare granted too many extra gates to United Airlines, giving United an unfair advantage.

Reports say Emanuel has since resolved the dispute by agreeing to speed up construction on three common-use gates that could be used by any airline, including American.

The $8.5 billion plan would dramatically transform the airport, and includes a state-of-the-art global terminal and dozens of new gates and concourses.

Under the plan, funding for the expansion would come from new lease agreements with American and United.

Some travelers at O'Hare are happy about the proposed renovations.

"Expansion is always good in my eyes as long as it's for the customers," said traveler Kwaku Domfe.

"I think with the new technology that's going to be implemented, flights and different routes are going to be vastly expanded and I think it will be easier for travelers to know where they are going," said traveler Perla Gomez.

In the deputy mayor's statement, the expansion plan is projected to create 60,000 new jobs during the eight-year construction and the airport is expected to service 100 million passengers by 2026.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said in a statement, "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. 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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