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AReCO in the News


O'Hare expansion idea started on the wrong foot

Chicago Tribune

Jack Saporito, Executive director

The Alliance of Residents Concerning O'Hare

Published September 15, 2003


Arlington Heights -- I was stunned when I read "14-year campaign began over breakfast; 1989 gathering was VIPs' wakeup call" (News, Aug. 7) that the Civic Committee, made up of the business elite, cooked up a plan to massively expand O'Hare International Airport after listening to a breakfast sales pitch from Stephen Wolf, then-chairman and chief executive of United Airlines. I would have thought that they would have had more on the ball than that.


Why did they listen to an airline whose main position is to not split up its operations between other area airports because of the monopoly it holds, thereby keeping ticket prices high? Didn't the business elite understand that is why they were paying high prices for tickets? Didn't they understand that real competition is between airports, not necessarily major airlines, mainly because of the way the airlines have carved up the system to share the market?


Did anyone ever stop to think Wolf was wrong? Wolf never really was hired to run an airline; he was only hired to dress United up and sell it. If you believe he actually ran the company, then he obviously did not do a good job with United or with US Airways; many of the present-day problems of the airlines, which have dealt with bankruptcy, are directly related to his inept leadership. Certainly the business elite should have caught on to that.


Did Wolf ever consider any other alternative to expanding O'Hare? Probably not. That would not have been in the best interests of United and that's really what his speech was about. Then when this airport expansion marketing scheme caught on, it was led by people who were going to make enormous amounts of money on this project and other Chicago business leaders blindly followed. And even when this expansion campaign was really in trouble, and they found out that commercial jet transport was the least sustainable form of transport, couldn't the businessmen pushing this ill-conceived notion have at least followed the suggestions of numerous government reports not to expand the airport and not to rely solely on aviation as the only solution to our long-term capacity needs?


We need to modernize O'Hare into an intermodal hub, complete with a world-class high-speed rail system. Expanding O'Hare for more flights eliminates the need for that.


The business elite certainly should not have listened to a few politically connected people with deep pockets who manipulated a clever marketing campaign and led them down the yellow-brick road. And they definitely should not have listened to an airline CEO whose leadership has taken two major carriers into bankruptcy.

Shame on the business elite.


Copyright 2003, Chicago Tribune