The new expansion at O’Hare International Airport is finally underway, now that American and United Airlines have finally stopped crabbing at each other about who got more gates in the plans—but it took a bit of work (and a few threats) to appease the two companies.
After a ceremonial signing of new airline lease agreements by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at O’Hare International Airport last week, the airport’s plans for expansion are finally ready to get underway. Construction on the expansion will cost about $8.5 billion and includes new gate allocations.
“We are investing in capacity, technology and modern facilities that will elevate the customer experience and significantly improve operational efficiencies with our historic $8.5 billion expansion plan,” Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation Ginger Evans said in a statement reported by Reuters.
But those new gate allocations started a dust-up between American and United. According to American, United was secretly awarded five more gates than the airline agreed to, and they refused to sign any leases until something changed.
As the situation got tenser, American threatened the city with filing Freedom of Information Act requests to get texts and emails relating to the expansion that might prove there actually were secret dealings between Chicago and United.
That threat never came to be, though, because, at the last minute, the city agreed to add three more gates to the expansion plans—three gates it had previously said were impossible to add in. That solved the problem, and all parties arrived at the airport to sign the leases without incident.
United maintained there was no secret deal the entire time.