US-CAW ACTIVITIES: Letter Concerning Addition of Daily Slot Exemptions At Chicago O’Hare International Airport
April 28, 1998
Dear President Clinton, Congressman Hyde, Congressman Porter, Chairman Shuster, Chairman Duncan, Governor Edgar, Senator Fitzgerald, Representative Bergman, Secretary Slater, Attorney General Reno, Administrator Browner, Administrator Garvey and Chairperson McGinty:
The addition of 53 more daily slot exemptions, approximately 20,000 annual take-offs and landings, recently added to Chicago O’Hare International Airport by the U.S. Department of Transportation is an insult to the millions of citizens in the Chicago Metroplex area whose health, safety and quality of life will be affected. This is over and above the 10 slots, 7,300 landings and take-offs, added within the last few months and given to Reno Air and Trans State Airlines.
These are new slot exemptions, not available as a result of the removal of military operations from O’Hare. It could be argued that the first round of exemptions, the 10, resulted from the military move, but the military never really had any slots, since most military flights were flown during the night, not during slot allotted hours.
Adding extra traffic, even one more flight a day, at historically the world’s busiest airport will add more undue life threatening air, water and noise pollution and further endanger up to one-quarter of the state’s population. Just a one-percent increase in operations adds upwards of 9,000 flights annually. What this means for the residents living around O’Hare is that they are exposed to at least double the levels of daily criteria and toxic air pollution as other residents of the region located some distance from the airport sources. Area residents already suffer from immense amounts of ground vehicle traffic pollution. O’Hare is one of the busiest ground traffic sites in Illinois, if not the world, with close to 200,000 cars and trucks entering and leaving the airport daily. Clearly airport maintenance, private and commercial vehicles and facilities on and off-site are not incidental to operations. They are part of the process, part of the problem!
As evidenced elsewhere, O’Hare Airport operations and aircraft pollution pose serious public health risks for possibly millions of citizens living around the airport, as pollution does not stop at the end of the airport’s boundary, but is also discharged overhead. These added flights and their collateral operations increase the devastating effects of airport and aviation related noise, air, water pollution, property losses to people, their safety and our environment.
Therefore, adding any more aviation related problems which will make matters worse and since decades of industry fixes have not worked, we demand that any and all expansion of the airport and operational increases be immediately curtailed and an environmental assessment completed and controls put into place to provide permanent, meaningful relief.
Further, if low carrier access into the Chicago market to add competitiveness to the market was really the purpose for adding more slots, it would be best served by adding another airport, not giving O’Hare’s United and American Airlines regional operators the largest share of the new slots. If competition was really the focus, it is completely out of focus. At a recent pubic meeting, Mr. Bill Hood, American Airlines Vice-president of corporate affairs stated, “We have competition between airports not between airlines.” Does he mean that Midway competes with O’Hare but that United and American do not compete?
Competitiveness is not achieved in the allocation, since most of the carriers are subsidiary to United and American Air Lines thereby further entrenching the dominance of those carriers at O’Hare. None of the exemptions were assigned to communities in the Midwest, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois or Wisconsin. Many of those communities have lost some or all of their O’Hare service due to the conversion of commuter slots by United and American Air Lines to longer haul markets with larger aircraft.
Additionally, many, including legislators are confused regarding the “slot rule”, thinking that it limits the number of take-offs and landings to 155 per hour. It does not, the hourly number is frequently exceeded during high traffic periods. The High Density Rule governing slots was established to address congestion and delays. Further, adding new slots will increase flight delays.
In consideration of public health, we demand these dangerous and even life- threatening environmental impacts be strongly regulated and enforced. To protect the public and our environment, any increase in operations should command an Environmental Impact Statement and enforcement of laws regarding air pollution and antitrust.