CHICAGO -- American Airlines chairman Robert Crandall warned a
group of Chicago executives that building a third airport here,
such as the one that Governor Jim Edgar has proposed for Peotone,
Ill., would be just about the "worst thing" Chicago could do to
travelers living here.
"If you want to weaken Chicago's position in aviation, build
another airport," Crandall told the Economic Club of Chicago.
Another airport would "split" local traffic and take away
American's incentive to offer the high-frequency services it now
offers out of O'Hare and that is supported by connecting traffic,
Because such a large percentage of American seats out of Chicago
are filled by connecting passengers, American will be able to
accommodate any future growth in the local market without a new
"We will just take the seats away from those connecting people
and we'll connect them somewhere else," Crandall said.
Crandall indicated that American has no vested interest in
whether the third airport is built.
"It doesn't make any difference to me," he said.
"I'll fly airplanes anywhere you want to fly. For your sake, I
hope you do not."
Crandall also said American's alliance with British Airways and
an expansion of its Tokyo rights are critical if Chicago is to
continue enjoying its unique status as a two-hub town.
As the only city in the world where two airlines, American and
United, operate large hubs, Chicago is in the "uniquely good"
position of having two carriers compete for every passenger,
American needs the British Airways alliance, which will give it
valuable access to other European points, in order to match the
international shared-code services offered by its competitors,
including United, which has marketing partnerships with Lufthansa
and SAS, Crandall said.
"Without access to European markets beyond Heath-row, it will
become even more difficult for us to compete for local business
here in Chicago, since local customers -- logically enough -- are
likely to choose the airline that can offer them the most products
for all their trips."
An American-British Airways partnership would increase, not
kill, airline competition across the Atlantic, Crandall said.
"The only way the AA-BA alliance can be approved is for the U.K.
to accept an open- skies agreement, which will allow all U.S.
carriers to fly to Heathrow from their U.S. hubs," he said.
"Since London is such a large local market, every one of them
will do so, which will mean new service options for customers all
over the U.S."
Crandall said the same logic applies in the Pacific, where
American, Delta and Continental do not have the same access to
Tokyo and markets beyond Tokyo that Northwest and United have,
"which is why you can fly from Chicago to Tokyo and points beyond
on United, but you can't get there on American."