United Airlines opens swank employee parking lot at O'Hare Airport
Posted On: Nov 01, 2018
United Airlines and its employees look to be reaping maximum benefit from the ongoing runway and terminal expansion at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport — a project that could easily take six or more years and billions of dollars to complete.
The latest windfall for the Chicago-based carrier is a relocated employee parking lot that opened Monday on Bessie Coleman Drive at a site no more than five minutes away by bus from United’s Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 at O’Hare.
The convenient and well-outfitted parking facility comes in the wake of a fracas that erupted last winter when United’s archrival American Airlines (NASDAQ: AAL) discovered United was being allotted five new gates at a renovated O’Hare, with none going to AA.
It’s a deal AA execs alleged at the time was forged behind closed doors just before Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Aviation went public with plans for a multi-billion-dollar overhaul of O’Hare terminals.
United insisted there was no collusion between the carrier and city officials. But AA kept screaming foul play and Emanuel, feeling the heat, suddenly made a new deal giving AA access to new gates at O’Hare.
United’s new employee parking facility replaces one on the far western side of the airfield that required United employees to take a much longer bus ride to reach their jobs in and around the two terminals United occupies.
A United spokesman maintains the new lot is a temporary facility that will operate while a new Runway 9c is constructed at O’Hare, though the spokesman conceded the “temporary” designation could change at some point. The new runway is expected to go into operation in 2020.
Still United has equipped the temporary lot with an array of amenities, including two “hold room” facilities that are air-conditioned and heated. Each holdroom has two unisex bathrooms. The previous distant lot only had bathrooms in what a United spokesman said were “converted construction trailers.” United said it also has increased the number of electric vehicle charging stations from four to 16 in the new close-in employee lot.
And what of American Airlines’ employee parking arrangements at O’Hare?
An AA spokeswoman, who had not been informed of United’s new employee parking arrangements, said AA’s employee parking will remain on the far side of the airfield near an AA hangar. An AA spokeswoman said the carrier had a “robust” bus system in place to get employees to and from their vehicles. Meanwhile, the AA spokeswoman said the airline expects to complete next month $12.5 million in improvements to its employee lot, including additional parking spaces, resurfacing, vehicle charging units and upgraded holdrooms.
But so far, AA is not raising a ruckus about United’s new parking arrangement. Instead, the carrier is focused on building out a new hangar, as the 9c runway construction will require the existing AA hangar to be demolished. AA’s new hangar could open as early as December.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Aviation sought to downplay United’s new employee parking arrangement. In a statement she said “it’s not news that the United employee parking lot would be relocated due to ongoing construction on the new Runway 9c/27c.”
And don’t ask the many limo drivers who make their living at O'Hare what they think of United’s new close-in parking lot deal.