American and Chicago O’Hare Make Peace at Last Minute

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, saying it wasn’t what was negotiated.

After escalating things by FOIAing communications between the Chicago’s Mayor and United this week — and as the city was scheduled to approve the plan, American’s lack of assent notwithstanding — there are now reports of a stand down and a deal between American and the city: adding 3 common use gates to the L concourse.

American and the city reportedly agreed to expedite construction of three new gates on L Concourse that American has been eyeing to offset five new gates archrival United is getting. But the gates will be for common use, not just American’s, I’m told. And it’s not clear how the city will move telecom lines that underlie the area.

American Airlines at Chicago O’Hare

After 2021 underutilized gates at the airport are supposed to be taken away and reallocated. As long as the airport remains gate-constrained, though, and Chicago remains a place that carriers want to bet on for the future (or prevent competitors from betting on) that just means we’ll see small aircraft added to schedules for no reason other than to squat on gates.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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