Global Traveler: How is O’Hare improving the travel experience?
Richard Rodriguez: We have been collecting information from our passengers and will soon complete construction on O’Hare’s Façade and Circulation Enhancement project, updating Terminals 1, 2 and 3. The project includes a new roadway canopy and expanded baggage claim and ticketing areas.
With nearly 95 million people passing through O’Hare and Midway annually, we work to promote the cultural initiatives for which Chicago is renowned. Several new concessions have recently opened or will open soon. The new concepts at O’Hare include Garrett Popcorn Shops, Barbara’s Bookstore and Nuts on Clark — all popular Chicago establishments. Our airports’ permanent art collections reflect the city’s public art program, and our entertainment programs feature live music and dance performances to coincide with Chicago events. Our overhead music program, Terminal Tunes, showcases music by local artists.
Our latest information technology initiatives include touch-screen Virtual Concierge work stations with up-to-the-minute information in eight languages, providing real-time flight information to travelers via email-capable devices. We’re also adding several power charging stations.
We realize that excellent customer service goes a long way. Our customer service representatives assist visitors with airport information. We have expanded the presence of Travelers Aid, a social service organization dedicated to assisting individuals and families in transition or crisis. We also continue to recruit new airport volunteers as part of the Airport Ambassador program.
GT: Update our readers on the O’Hare Modernization Program.
RR: The O’Hare Modernization Program — a $6.6 billion effort to modernize the outdated runway configuration — will see results this fall. A 13,000-foot runway extension will open Sept. 25, and the first entirely new runway will be commissioned on Nov. 20. With these changes, passengers will begin to see some delay relief, especially inclement weather delays. The full benefits will be realized upon completion in 2014.
GT: What other changes have been happening at your airports?
RR: Passenger safety and security are the primary concerns of the Chicago Airport System. We have implemented an employee biometric ID badge system, and employees must provide fingerprint identification when entering secure areas of the airport. License plate recognition cameras have been installed to identify vehicles on terminal roadways, with more than 150 surveillance cameras in O’Hare’s parking facility and several cameras in the Midway terminal, parking garage and other locations.
By 2015, O’Hare will implement the FAA’s Runway Status Light System with illuminated red in-pavement lights to indicate runways unsafe for entry or take-off. A similar system may be installed at Midway. Other safety efforts include enhanced signage, lights and surface markings and a focus on training and dissemination of information.
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