United CEO: Peotone airport would damage Chicago
United Continental Holdings Inc. CEO Jeff Smisek said Thursday a third airport in Chicago would bring the city more harm than good.
His remarks came just a few days before US Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. plans to hold an event at the potental site of an airport in Peotone, to show local support of the project.
Smisek said he didn't see and airport being built in Peotone because with an airport like O'Hare, there's no demand for a third.
"When you start diluting a hub, you damage the city. And whatever purported benefits a new airport would bring would be vastly overshadowed by the damage to the hub itself," he said.
Jackson's been working on a Peotone airport for years, as he believes it will give the South Side some much needed access to jobs and economic growth. He's planning on bringing a group of people to the site this weekend for what he calls a "people's groundbreaking."
The airport has been a recent point of contention between Jackson and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Though the mayor endorsed Jackson in the recent primary elections, he doesn't support the airport plan. Instead, the mayor has proposed expanding O'Hare International airport, saying it would be like adding a third airport without actually building a new one.
Smisek was quiet on the subject of O'Hare's expansion at first, saying he looked forward to the talks with the mayor. When pressed, he explained that investment would only come if there was also demand.
"We're committed to Chicago, we're Chicago's hometown airline," he said. "We hope that the demand will be such that we can grow Chicago, and we certainly have the ability to grow Chicago if the demand is there."