United Airlines, the largest airline in the world, recently signed one of the largest office leases ever in the history of Chicago and extended its lease through 2028. Already home to United’s Network Operations Center, Willis Tower will become home to the airline’s corporate headquarters as part of the deal. Once complete, United will occupy approximately 25 percent of the building.
“The fact that United has brought its company under one roof and extended their commitment to downtown is great news for all Chicagoans,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “This deal shows United’s commitment to Chicago for a generation; it ensures our hometown airline will be here, and means that quality jobs and economic activity will remain in the area for years to come.”
United began moving its headquarters downtown from its Elk Grove Village campus in March 2007. The airline in 2009 announced 2,800 additional jobs would move downtown, and began moving its operations in to Willis Tower in fall 2010 with an initial lease of 470,000 square feet. United increased its space commitments in 2011 to a total of 625,000 square feet. The new deal in 2012 adds another 205,000 square feet, bringing United to a total of 830,000 square feet, occupying 16 floors throughout the building. Upon full completion, United will have more than 4,000 employees working in downtown Chicago, and more than 14,000 total in the city including its O’Hare operations and reservations center.
“Willis Tower provides a dynamic work environment for our employees. This is an important step as we continue to work together to build the world’s leading airline,” said Brett Hart, United’s EVP and General Counsel, who oversees the company’s corporate real estate. “Our employees are embracing downtown Chicago as our new home, and we are committed to this world-class city.”
The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, at 1,450 feet, Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) occupies an entire city block and has its own zip code. World Business Chicago has assisted United throughout its expansion in the city. United Continental Holdings, Inc.’s President and CEO Jeffery Smisek is a member of WBC’s board of directors.