Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Monday hosted a meeting with top airline officials to discuss the sector’s role in the city’s economy and how best to foster growth.
“Our leadership in this space is dependent upon strong cooperation between the city and the leading aviation companies, and we are committed to growing these relationships and working together to increase local educational and job training opportunities,” Emanuel said in a statement.
The group, which has committed to exploring the expansion of job training programs, included the top leaders of United Airlines and American Airlines, which operate hubs at O’Hare International Airport; Southwest Airlines, which has a strong presence at Midway Airport; and Chicago-based Boeing. Department of Aviation commissioner Rosemarie Andolino also attended.
Chicago’s relationship with United and American had been strained after the city attempted to bypass airline approval on a new O’Hare bond issue amid the airlines’ refusal to sign off on the next phase of projects under an ongoing $8 billion expansion program.
The city originally planned in January to sell $1.1 billion of bonds backed by passenger facility charges, a structure officials devised because it did not require airline approval under the current use agreement with carriers.
Officials put the sale on hold after American and United filed a lawsuit.
Federal aviation authorities helped broker an agreement between the airlines and former Mayor Richard Daley that paved the way for a spring bond sale.
Fitch Ratings recently affirmed Midway and O’Hare’s ratings.
The agency assigns an A to $783 million of first-lien Midway airport revenue bonds and an A-minus to $686 million of second-lien debt. The airport serves 8.7 million passengers annually, a figure that has steadily risen since a sharp 2008 decline.
Fitch said the Midway rating is supported by its role as an established provider of low-cost domestic service in an economically strong local air trade service area.
Fitch rates $6.1 billion of third-lien O’Hare airport revenue bonds A-minus, $369 million of second-lien bonds AA, $73 million of first-lien bonds AA-plus, and $813 million of PFC bonds A.
The credit ratings are supported by the airport’s substantial traffic base and central role in the national air traffic system.
“I’m pleased that Fitch recognized that O’Hare and Midway continue to perform well in tough economic environment conditions and a challenging environment for the airline industry,” Andolino said in a statement.