The nations third busiest airport may be getting bigger. The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the city of Chicago and the airlines serving Chicago O’Hare are nearing an $8.5 billion deal to expand the airport. The deal would see renovated terminals, new concourses, and more gates for the airport. If the deal is completed, this would become the largest expansion in O’Hare’s history.
The deal would see the over 50-year-old Terminal 2 demolished and replaced with a brand new state of the art terminal. The remaining terminals would be extensively renovated, and two new concourses built. The new Terminal 2, dubbed the Global Terminal, would be home to passengers of hub carrier American and United to connect to their Oneworld and Star Alliance partners without changing terminals.
Other non-hub carriers would be relocated to better accommodate connectivity between partners. The new terminal and concourses will feature wider concourses than the current narrow ones at O’Hare.
If the plan goes through, the airport will see almost a doubling of terminal square footage, growing from approximately 4.3 million square feet to 7.4 million square feet of terminal space. The number of gates would increase from 185 to about 220. The plan would take approximately eight years to complete depending on the final plan.
The deal would come at a pivoting moment for O’Hare Airport. Many airlines have 35-year leases with the airport which expire in May, and the city hopes to use this to leverage higher fees to pay for the expansion. The airport has also seen staggering international passenger numbers, as airports around the country have seen their numbers soar past O’Hares. The airport also is in the middle of a project to build a sixth east-west runway, new deicing pads, and new taxiways to help speed up traffic.
This isn’t the first time that an expansion deal has been attempted. Previous deals between the airlines and the city were rejected as American and United felt they would be paying for renovations that would only benefit their competitors. However, this new deal would appease all airlines serving O’Hare. The new deal should see timeliness and customer satisfaction improvement for all airlines.
O’Hare has been lagging behind other airports across the country as the current terminals begin to show their age. This new deal, if achieved, would place O’Hare back at the top in the country. The airport claims that both the city and the airlines would benefit from the deal. The city and residents would have a world class airport, while the airlines would see less delays and improved customer satisfaction.