The Council’s Aviation Committee approved a ground lease agreement for American Airlines in what was described as one of the final opportunities for gate expansion at O’Hare Airport.

Present: Chairman Mike Zalewski (23), Pat Dowell (3), Marty Quinn (13), Raymond Lopez (15), Derrick Curtis (18), Willie Cochran (20), Danny Solis (25), Walter Burnett (27),  Ariel Reboyras (30), Gilbert Villegas (36),  Emma Mitts (37), Anthony Napolitano (41), Ameya Pawar (47)

According to Jessica Sampson, General Counsel for the Department of Aviation, the ordinance aldermen approved authorizes a lease agreement with American, which will allow the airline to begin construction on five new gates at the end of Terminal 3. The gates are known as the L Stringer Gates, with a total space of about 165,000 feet, comprised of new waiting areas and concession stands, among other amenities. The gates are scheduled to open in 2018, with the open bid for concessionaires scheduled for next year.

As is common when discussing city contracts in Council committees, most of the conversation revolved around minority hiring, with several aldermen asking for stats on internal minority hiring and goals for American Airlines, and at O’Hare. (The “through the chair requests,” are all due to aldermen before next Wednesday’s monthly City Council meeting, when they will have to vote on the agreement as a full body. Some of those requests got so in the weeds that one alderman even asked for the number of employees that were turned down because they failed the federal background check that is required for all potential airport hires.)

But there was some dialogue concerning the airliner’s new crop of planes and how that could help mitigate the issue of jet noise that took up an entire Aviation Committee meeting last month when freshman alderman Anthony Napolitano (41) proposed a plan to put the city council in charge of runway construction. Billy Glunz, a Regional Director of Governmental Affairs for American Airlines, testified that they currently have the youngest fleet in the industry, putting out a new plane every four-and-a-half days. Glunz said that they expect most of the fleet to be replaced by this summer.