Privatization of first US airport could bank 2.5 billion dollars

CHICAGO, September 30, 2008 (AFP) – The privatization of the first major US airport could net the city of Chicago 2.5 billion dollars, officials said Tuesday.

The 99-year lease of Chicago’s secondary airport, Midway, must still be approved by the city council and federal regulators but officials expressed confidence it would pass.

“With this agreement in place, the question next becomes how we will use the discretionary portion that is available to us once Midway debt has been paid,” Mayor Richard Daley said.

“This transaction will provide unprecedented benefits for the traveling public, the airlines and the taxpayers of Chicago.”

While many European airports were privatized years ago, all commercial airports in the United States are currently operated and owned by local or state governments.

Midway was the first major hub airport to apply for privatization approval since the US Congress established a pilot program in 1996 to explore the use of private operators at commercial airports.

Five smaller airports have applied to be privatized but four later withdrew their applications and one application was terminated, according to the