Airlines Balk at Plan to Lease Midway

Airlines are opposing Chicago's plan to lease Midway Airport to a private operator, stalling a deal that could provide billions in fees to the city.

Southwest Airlines Co. and other carriers have been able to push back the timetable for potential bidders, Crain's Chicago Business newspaper reported. The city had planned to take bids last month so a deal could be reached around the end of the year.

Delta Air Lines Inc. -- which operates ComAir at Midway -- Northwest Airlines Inc. and Southwest want a portion of any proceeds from leasing the airport.

The city told the airlines in early February their savings over 20 years under the proposed deal would amount to about $82 million, adjusted for inflation, because a private operator would be more efficient.

But the airlines are not convinced a private operator could offer them lower fees and make a profit without cutting back on airport services, Crain's Chicago Business said.

The city anticipates leasing Midway would bring in as much as $3 billion, which Mayor Richard M. Daley believes is needed to support Chicago's under-funded pension plans and to pay for infrastructure repairs, the newspaper reported.

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