O'Hare Expansion Plan: Daley to meet with airline CEOs

January 31, 2011 2:48:46 PM PST
Mayor Richard M. Daley will meet with the CEOs of both United and American airlines to try to break the stalemate over the city's expansion plans for O'Hare International Airport.

On February 22, lawyers for United and American and the City of Chicago are scheduled to face each other in court unless the two sides can resolve their difference over O'Hare modernization between now and then.

"I'll sit down with them, but they have to put something new on the table," Mayor Daley said Monday when talking about a plan to meet with United and American CEOs on Thursday. Last week, Jeff Smisek and Gerald Arpey met with Illinois' two senators to look for common ground in the O'Hare fight.

The fight boils down to the timetable-- Mayor Daley wants to stick with it while the airlines want to slow down the building of two additional runways at O'Hare. The airlines support the plan, but want the air traffic figures to go back up, which could mean years.

"When they said 2019, that is unbelievable. What are we now? 2011. 2019, then you can maybe apply for runways. It'll take how many years to get permits, It'll be 2024. In the meantime every other airport is expanding," Daley said.

United and American have sued the city to stop it from issuing bonds for phase two of O'Hare expansion. It has become an uncharacteristically public fight between the city and its airline partners who two years ago were jubilant when the new north runway became operational.

Daley said he hopes to find common ground with the officials.

"Glad to meet 'em, Yeah, United Airlines and American, never met 'em before. So it's a great honor for me leaving office," Daley said. Daley has met Smisek before. They shared the same stage during the United-Continental merger announcement last year.