Jamie Rhee, Commissioner, Chicago Department of Aviation

Mar 1, 2019
Interviews

Name: Jamie Rhee
Title: Commissioner
Company, city: Chicago Department of Aviation; Chicago, Illinois
Number of employees: 1,400
Recent project: O’Hare International Airport is always on the move, with new services, new amenities and projects opening to serve our customers. Most recently, we opened a Multi Modal Facility, centralizing all our rental car operations for the first time, and expanded economy parking capacity. We also just opened a centralized deicing pad for use by all our carriers, which will enhance operational efficiency, improve gate capacity and further reduce delays during Chicago’s winter operations.
First job: I’ve come full circle; it was providing foreign language assistance at ORD. I also served as general counsel here 2004–2008.
Little-known fact about you: I grew up on a farm in a small town with only one stoplight!

Your Business

What innovations/initiatives do you foresee in the industry over the next years? Enhanced technology is the future; there’s already improvement with the use of biometrics and facial recognition. Next up is reimagining airport space in anticipation of the new technology. How can we use the space smarter and build for the future with such rapid technology changes?

Best career advice you’ve received: Twenty-five years ago, when I started out in government, someone gave me the advice, “No sudden moves.” You gain invaluable perspectives from reaching out to others. You evolve into the right space when you let people weigh in.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the field? The government is an amazing space to consider. Every day I impact people’s lives. You gain a world of experience working in government.

Jamie Rhee as a Traveler

Favorite travel memory or story: I was backpacking in Europe with my sister, on the train from Amsterdam to Paris. I went to the bathroom, where I ended up locked in for 2.5 hours. My sister had fallen asleep, and when I returned to the seat, she was chatting with another passenger about the person trapped in the bathroom. I told her it was me!

One travel tip you cannot live without: Pack light. I think I’ve finally perfected it. Best advice for business travelers: Look at your surroundings; give airports feedback. We want to hear from you, as there’s nothing like a fresh set of eyes.

About Chicago Department of Aviation

Air New Zealand recently launched the first-ever flight between New Zealand and Chicago O’Hare. Tell us about other new routes. For the first time we’re offering a bid incentive that includes help for airlines in marketing new flights. In 2018 we announced or launched 17 new destinations, including Avianca to Bogotá, TAP Air Portugal to Lisbon and LOT Polish Airlines to Budapest. Flights to Addis Ababa on Ethiopian Airlines also launched, and we’re one of only six airports in the world with direct, non-stop service to all major inhabited regions. We hope these trends continue!

Chicago O’Hare recently won its 15th consecutive GT Tested Reader Survey award as Best Airport in North America. What makes ORD the best? It’s the employees! They have a passion and love for the airport with a focus on customer service. The message is we care; this is our home.

Update our readers on the progress of O’Hare’s modernization project. Several separate projects are underway, and we continue to move our modernization programs forward at both of Chicago’s airports by involving the talents of local residents and firms. One of my favorite aspects is the way we incorporate Chicago’s communities in everything we do. We’ve launched incentives to help bring small minority-, women- and veteranowned businesses into the mix, and to also inspire more local youth to consider futures in aviation. We are the first airport in North America to open a Changing Places facility for travelers with disabilities, and we’ve just launched a task force dedicated to making the airport more accessible for travelers with disabilities.

We are excited about many key projects on the horizon, including our final runway extension to be complete in 2020/2021. The terminal expansion — the biggest in the airport’s history — is gearing up for construction. The City of Chicago recently launched a global search for architect teams to design the centerpiece of our expansion, the new O’Hare Global Terminal, along with two new satellite concourses. Later this year we expect to break ground on an extension of Terminal 5 at O’Hare, set to deliver nine new gates to support Chicago’s leading global connectivity. Our passengers have a lot to look forward to, with added space making way for new amenities, concessions, increased travel options and many other improvements to elevate the traveler experience from curb to gate.

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