United and American sue City of Chicago for planned O’Hare expansion

o'hare expansion

United Airlines and American Airlines have taken a disagreement with the City of Chicago to court, asking a judge to block a planned expansion of the airport.

At the heart of the disagreement is “phase 2″ of the O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP). The modernization of O’Hare started years ago and was badly needed – it included new runways, a new air traffic control tower and upgrades to the existing terminal buildings. Phase one of the program added runway 9L/27R – the first new runway added to the airport since 1971.

Now Phase 1 is almost complete, work on Phase 2 has started – and is expected to cost an estimated $3.36 billion. In Phase 2, the airport will rebuild two runways, extend one runway and build a new western terminal building. Problem is – the two airlines that provide over 80 percent of air traffic to O’Hare are not convinced the airport actually needs the expansions.

The two airlines made the rare move of joining forces to issue a combines statement about the changes, and filed their lawsuit in the Cook County Court. Whether or not the airlines get their way won’t matter – the lawsuit alone will probably become just another delay in the modernization program.

And if you feel sorry for the airlines – don’t – most of the money for the modernization program comes from “passenger facility charges” in the form of bonds – and these “PFC’s” make up a small chunk of every ticket sold. End result – O’Hare becomes one of the most expensive airports in the country.

Still, as someone who uses O’Hare regularly, I’m really not against paying a couple of bucks extra to improve the airport. Things (read: delays) have become more bearable in recent years, but there are still plenty of ways the airport can improve itself. If the airlines actually want to fix things, they can start by improving their own terminal facilities and lounges (hint: AA, your presence at O’Hare really sucks)

For more on the lawsuit and for a link to the actual filing, check out Chicago Breaking Business.

[Photo: Getty Images]