Travelers in the Chicago area may soon be able to benefit from a competitive spat brewing between American and United Airlines.

The upcoming competition stems from prominent market positions that both airlines hold at Chicago’s O’Hare international airport. American and United each use the suburban airport as a critical hub for daily operations, typically running over five hundred flights respectively out of the city every day. And while generally the two airlines have peacefully cohabitated (O’Hare does, after all, have 8 runways and plenty of real estate), each carrier has recently started to expand routes and increase competition out of the airport.

American Airlines jets sit at their gates at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in Illinois, on Friday, October 17, 2003. Photographer: Tannen Maury/Bloomberg News

United Airlines may have started the arms race by hiring away several executives from its rival including Scott Kirby, American’s former president. Shortly after the hiring spree, Skift reported that United started expanding routes at Chicago O’Hare to compete better with American. In response, last week American answered United’s expansion by adding eleven new routes of its own out of the airport.

American’s announcement came as part of the airline’s expansion of summer routes, which also included additional service from Charlotte, Dallas Fort-Worth, Los Angeles, Miami and Phoenix. None of the airports received as much attention as O’Hare; past Chicago, Dallas Fort-Worth got the most added service with an additional five routes added to its its roster.

United’s expanded routes also focus primarily on Chicago O’Hare. Of the fifteen routes that the airline announced in its expanded summer schedule, six are based out of O’Hare airport while five will be from San Francisco, another United hub.

The majority of the expansion between both carriers focuses on short-haul destinations from Chicago such as Appleton, Wisconsin and Champaign/Urbana, Illinois, though American did add service to Barcelona.

Despite the modest expansion, the increased competition means that each airline is serious about establishing dominance out of Chicago O’Hare, one of the busiest airports in the country. And as a result of the competition, passengers out of the Chicago Metro area may soon see lower ticket prices as the carriers jostle for market share.

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