The airline will return $5.6 million and give up getting $9.7 million. Both sums are incentives offered by Chicago that are tied to the airline keeping its offices in the city and reaching certain business targets.
The airline is consolidating its headquarters at Willis Tower, which involves moving some personnel from an office complex several blocks away. Both locations are in Chicago, but the $5.6 million was tied to the first location, which the company is abandoning, the Chicago Tribune reported Monday.
The airline had the $5.6 in hand but it was questionable whether it would have qualified to receive the additional $9.7 million, the airline said.
"We were unlikely to ever realize the incremental $9.7 million anyway because of our improving fuel efficiency and reduced capacity," said Christen David, an airline spokeswoman.
"Since we are vacating 77 West Wacker, which we redeveloped with the help of city economic incentives, we feel it is appropriate to return the funds we used for that redevelopment," David said.
The airline had met its obligations for the $5.6 million and it was not technically necessary that it return the money, the Tribune said.
That makes it an especially surprising move, given the tight business environment for airlines in recent years.
"I commend United Airlines on an incredible act of corporate citizenship that speaks to the unique role Chicago's business community plays in the future of the city," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.