WORLD ROUTES: A Warm Welcome from the Industry

A trio of the biggest names in American and global aviation welcomed delegates to the Strategy Summit on the opening day of the formal event programme for the 20th World Routes Development Forum in Chicago, Jonny Williamson writes for The HUB.

A trio of the biggest names in American and global aviation welcomed delegates to the Strategy Summit on the opening day of the formal event programme for the 20th World Routes Development Forum in Chicago. 

Noting what an honour and privilege it is to host the aviation industry’s largest and most prestigious event, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA), Rosemarie Andolino, took the time to explain the power of World Routes and the incredible opportunities it provides.

“It is an amazing chance to showcase our magnificent city of Chicago on the world stage,” she said. “A place that our Mayor Rahm Emanuel describes as ‘the most American of American cities’.”

Andolino thanked the variety of partners and stakeholders who worked with the CDA to put together Chicago’s successful bid to host World Routes, including the Chicago Chamber of Commerce, World Business Chicago, the Illinois Restaurant Association and its co-host, Choose Chicago.

Chicago’s two international airports provide service to more than 30 countries and support an extensive domestic network. Combined, O’Hare and Midway handle nearly 85mppa and are served by three of America’s four largest carriers, United Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest.

Describing Chicago as a “truly global transportation gateway,” the commissioner added: “From our city, you can fly to virtually anywhere in the world in a single flight, with our network development due much in part to our relationship with Routes.”

Assistant secretary for aviation and international affairs at the US Department of Transportation, Susan Kurland, enthused on how her hometown, Chicago, was truly a symbol of worldwide connectivity, with 40 more flights having been added to Chicago’s network in the five years since 2009.”

“The $8 billion O’Hare Modernization Program [one of the nation’s largest civil infrastructure projects and overseen by the CDA] has seen capacity increase by an additional 90,000 flights a year,” Kurland stated.

The project has included terminal and runway construction and extensions at O’Hare, with two new gateways able to support A380 operations currently being designed.

During his keynote address, vice chairman and chief revenue officer (CRO) at United Airlines, Jim Compton, spoke proudly about playing a critical role in the connecting Chicago to the world.  “Having started in this city 90 years ago, United has grown to become one of the oldest and largest global carriers, with 85,000 employee worldwide [14,000 based in Chicago],” Compton said.

He went on to explain how everyone in aviation, United included, had faced a decade of challenges ranging from fluctuating fuel prices, geo-political turmoil and economic recession, yet the industry had used to opportunity to think outside of the box and reshape itself.

“Thanks to this, I am now more excited than ever about what the future holds for United. We have faced our own unique challenges following the recent merger, with the start of 2014 a difficult time operationally for us, but the situation is improving.”

The CRO closed by stating that United remains strongly competitive in the industry, exceeding departure goals and on-time performance for both June and July, and is in a strong position to invest in its product and people.  “United is the number one carrier in the US and Canada, as well as across the Pacific and Atlantic; we are reducing the complexity of our regional offering; reacting and optimising our operation to fit demand; we are heavily involved in fleet modernisation with the new 787-9 Dreamliner and E175 and our new routes from San Francisco to Taipei and Chengdu are both performing better than expected,” he declared.