United Airlines has 14 more gates than American at Chicago O’Hare. American is opening 5 new gates that they paid for, reducing the gap to 9. But the new O’Hare expansion plan re-opens the gap and returns United to a 14 gate advantage.
American isn’t losing gates. They are complaining that United is gaining gates. But American is refusing to sign a new lease under these terms.
They’ve put out a new “Tell Me Why” video interview meant to explain their position to employees.
American says their issue with this is that it’s bad for customers, that expanding ‘the gate gap’ “doesn’t necessarily help customers.” And that closing the gap is what lets them run the Chicago LaGuardia shuttle although American isn’t newly serving LaGuardia they’re just calling it a shuttle, and adding features to the product.
Parity between American and United may be good for competition as American says. On the other hand a clear gap between the largest and second largest carrier could be good for consumers.
Avis used to have as its slogan, “We’re #2, We Try Harder.” The idea was that a clear second player had to do more. In the hotel space Hyatt and Starwood offered historically stronger loyalty programs for elite guests because they were smaller than rivals like Marriott and Hilton and needed to do more to entice business. Ultimately it’s an empirical question.
More gates at O’Hare for American and not other airlines is good for American. I have no real opinion as to which airline ought to have more gates, it’s a business dispute and ultimately American is arguing the political process is unfair. In Chicago.