Chicago is growing as the centre of discord between United and American Airlines

Published on : Wednesday, February 15, 2017

unitedAmerican Airlines, which has been a huge player in Chicago for decades is now facing major challenge from United President Scott Kirby.


Although there are significantly fewer gates than United Airlines, American Airlines operates nearly as many daily flights in Chicago as them. And, there has been plenty of cases where American provides more convenient schedules for Chicago-based business travellers, while offering more options for connecting passengers than United. And more importantly, American flies to some smaller Midwestern cities which United does not.


Scott Kirby was the decision maker of American’s strategy until August 2016 and they were very much in competition with United. But with Kirby joining United as its president, the entire game plan changed. It is now to make United the clear leader in Chicago; and most importantly drive American out in longer frame.


Kirby told employees recently at a town hall meeting that in Chicago they have massive advantages. Today, United and United Express operate an average of 530 daily flights, only about 30 more than American and American Eagle, according to figures provided by both airlines.


With more than 20 gates, United has more room to grow than American, though that gap will soon shrink, with American planning to build five gates. However, Kirby is all set to make American less profitable by rescheduling some flights and adding more flights.



Instead of scheduling Chicago flights without considering how they would facilitate connections, the airline tweaked its schedule to create banks —or groups of flights that arrive and depart in waves in early 2015. However now, if a United passenger want to connect in Chicago to go to Los Angeles or New York who will fly from Green Bay or Indianapolis, they need back-tracking.



United is bigger in Chicago, American flies to many smaller cities that United does not, including Dubuque, Iowa, LaCrosse, Wisconsin and Columbia, Missouri. Now the whole idea is to create a structural crosspiece for American in those types of markets. In addition, Kirby said United would bulk up its schedule to other airline hubs, such as Dallas/Fort Worth, where American is based.


He also suggested a couple of changes for the United’s Chicago network.

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