HomeNewsUnited Airlines Ditching Downtown Chicago, Sort Of

United Airlines Ditching Downtown Chicago, Sort Of

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

United Airlines is moving some operations from downtown’s Willis Tower to a Chicago suburb next year, and some see it as a ditch move.

The airline carrier announced Thursday that it is moving its network operations center to Arlington Heights on April 1. The new location is about 35 miles north of Chicago. About 900 employees, including managers and technical support, are affected.

Also, Bloomberg News said 400 flight dispatchers may leave the tower for the suburbs. 

With its two major airports, Chicago is a major hub for United Airlines.

Further, the airline recently announced it would discontinue flights in 11 U.S. cities. Those cities are Kalamazoo, Mich.; Lansing, Mich.; Station, Texas; Columbia, Mo.; Mosinee, Wis.; Evansville, Ind.; Fort Hood, Texas; Twin Falls, Id.; Monroe, La.; Pierre, S.D.; and Watertown, S.D. 

Wonder if discontinued alcohol sales was a factor in the decision.

In a similar move, Delta cut its Salt Lake City, Utah to Durango, Col. route only six months are setting it up. American Airlines has cut a few Northeastern routes in Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

United Airlines Buzzing The Tower?

According to the collective bargaining agreement, union leader Craig Symons said many United Airlines employees must stay at Willis Tower (2,500). 

United Airlines is putting millions into tower renovations and said it is committed to Chicago.

That’s “roughly the same number of employees we had in the city ten years ago,” company spokesman Charlie Hobart said by email.

According to managing director David Kensick, the airlines closed on a deal Wednesday to purchase the building. Moreover, the suburban facility opened last year during the pandemic. It had socially-distant workstations during the pandemic.

Also, the new United Airlines facility is closer to central hub at O’Hare International Airport.

Kensick said it “offers crucial advantages, particularly the ability to support the anticipated growth of our airline.”

United Airlines Moving Like Other Chicago Businesses

Without a doubt, the pandemic hurt Chicago’s business district. Businesses leaving are an added blow. Additionally, Bloomberg reported that last year’s social unrest has added to the city’s issues.

Boeing Co.’s corporate headquarters is empty as many employees working from home.

What’s more, the Chicago Bears football team is considering a move to Arlington Heights.

However, the team recently purchased land there, but there are no current plans to leave Soldier Field.

Ultimately, the federal government is Chicago’s largest employer, with more than 45,000 workers.

Last year, Willis Tower flooding forced its operations center to temporarily close. Officials had to evacuate flight dispatchers down darkened stairwells in a 110-story building.

On Tuesday, the airline announced it became the first in aviation history to fly an aircraft full of passengers using 100 percent sustainable fuel. Further, the flight traveled from Chicago’s O’Hare to Washington’s Reagan National Airport.