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O’Hare revamp unveiled


The City of Chicago has unveiled a major redevelopment of the third busiest airport in the USA.  The project, which is likely to cost $8.5bn, will run from next year until 2026.  It will add 25% more gates (up from 185 today) to the central terminal area and increase the floor space from 5.5m sq ft (510,000m2) to 8.9m sq ft (827,000m2).

Included among the plans are two new satellite concourses to the south and southwest of Terminal 1.  These will be linked to the main buildings by tunnels incorporating moving walkways.  The 55 year old Terminal 2 will be demolished, and replaced by a ‘Global Terminal’ that will include customs and border protection facilities.  This will enable international flights to be moved to the central terminal area, freeing up Terminal 5 (the existing international terminal) for Delta and its Skyteam partners along with other US domestic carriers including Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines.  United Airlines and Star Alliance are expected take all of the gates in an expanded Terminal 1, while American Airlines and One World will similarly occupy Terminal 3 – both buildings will be extensively renovated.  State-of-the-art security screening systems will also be introduced, three new baggage systems installed, and new self-service technology will be made available to make the check in process faster and easier for passengers.

The project will be funded by the city borrowing against future revenue it obtains from airlines and concessionaires.

Chicago Mayor Rham Emanuel said: “This plan is not just a game changer for O’Hare, it is a turning point for Chicago that will create tens of thousands of jobs for Chicagoans and strengthen our great city’s position as a national and global leader in travel, tourism and trade for generations.  My goal is to make O’Hare the best airport in the country, and I want to thank our airline partners for recognizing the value of this investment. We are looking forward to moving full steam ahead on this transformational plan that represents a watershed moment in Chicago’s economic future.”

Oscar Munoz, United Airline’s chief executive officer added: “As Chicago’s hometown airline, we are looking forward to continuing our investment in O’Hare and building our largest hub into the world-class airport this world-class city deserves.  The improvements in our new agreement will help ensure we provide a superior travel experience for the more than 36 million United customers who fly through O’Hare each year.”

American Airlines, the second biggest user of O’Hare, is currently disputing some gate-allocations associated with the agreement that will permit the development to commence.

The project underpins the City of Chicago’s desire to ensure its major gateway is capable of accommodating continuing growth in demand for air travel worldwide.  By 2026, it is expected that O’Hare will serve nearly 100m passengers per year, up from around 80m today.  It is also anticipated that the will provide at least $50bn in economic contribution to the region, and create at least 460,000 jobs over the next eight years.  The latest upgrades will complement several O’Hare 21 projects that are already underway including extensions to Terminal 5 and Terminal 3, hotel redevelopments, construction of a new multi-modal facility, and completion of Runway 9C/27C in 2020.

Picture: Chicago Mayor Rham Emanuel has unveiled plans for a major upgrade at O’Hare International Airport.  (Chicago Department of Aviation)

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