O’Hare and Midway Gear Up for Busy Memorial Day Travel Season

May 25, 2022

1.4 Million Passengers Expected to Traverse Chicago Airports in Busiest Summer Travel Weekend Since 2019

CDA Media Relations    (312) 656-6108 / cdamedia@cityofchicago.org

The Chicago airport community is poised to welcome more than 1.4 million travelers to the O’Hare and Midway International Airports between Thursday, May 26, and Tuesday, May 31, based on projections from airline carriers. O’Hare is expecting an increase of 47.4% over the same period last year, while Midway anticipates a 5% increase.

"For the first summer in three years, Chicago can comfortably welcome millions of visitors from around the globe to the quintessential events that define our city," said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. "Visitors and residents alike can take part in street festivals, parades, concerts, beach parties, ball games and more all season long."

“Under Mayor Lightfoot’s leadership, the hard-working men and women at O’Hare and Midway have worked nonstop to continue making improvements to our airports,” Commissioner Rhee said. “With air travel and Chicago weather heating up again, both airports remain as ready as ever to connect the world to Chicago and Chicago to the world.”

Visitors and residents traveling through O’Hare and Midway international airports this weekend should be mindful of the following tips:

Arrive Early
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) may experience longer than usual wait times at security checkpoints during the holiday weekend given the influx of travelers. Real-time updates for O’Hare checkpoints are available on the FlyChicago website.

Travel Safely
Chicago remains at a “Medium” risk level for COVID-19, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). While there are no current mandates, CDPH strongly recommends wearing mask in public indoor spaces. Current federal guidance also recommends all employees and travelers ages 2 and up wear a well-fitting mask or respirator while at indoor transportation facilities, including airports. The CDA reminds all passengers and staff to be courteous and respectful to each other. 

Prevent Traffic Congestion
Traffic back-ups into both O’Hare and Midway can come early and often on the busiest travel weekends.

  • Consider taking the CTA Blue Line to O’Hare and the CTA Orange Line to Midway to avoid the curbside crowds. Metra’s North Central Service offers weekday service from downtown Chicago’s Union Station to the O’Hare transfer station next to the Multi-Modal Facility, with access to the Airport Transit System.
  • Kiss n’ Fly drop-offs are also located at both airports. At Midway, passengers can be dropped off at West 59th Street and South Kilpatrick Avenue and take a short walk into the terminals. At O’Hare, passengers can be dropped off at the Multi-Modal Facility, 10255 W Zemke Blvd., and board the Airport Transit System (ATS) for a short ride to Terminals 1, 2 3 and 5.
  • Cell Phone Lots are available at both airports. Avoid circling the curb zone area and wait in the convenient free parking lots until arriving passenger call to say they are ready for pickup. The O’Hare Cell Phone Lot is at 560 N. Bessie Coleman Drive, and the Midway Cell Phone Lot is located at West 61st Street and South Cicero Avenue.

Look for New Low-Contact Concession Options

Travelers will find the addition of one of the largest and most innovative airport concession vending programs in the country. Nine new vendors provide state-of-the-art, low-touch, 24/7 offerings that meet the evolving needs of travelers. While the vending machines offer an array of healthy prepared food and beverages, they also sell everything from cosmetics and electronics to gourmet cupcakes, specialty popcorn, and LEGOS®. Importantly, these operating leases include a high representation of certified Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (ACDBEs) and provide opportunities for small and diverse locally-owned businesses to grow.

At Midway Airport, low-contact purchase options are available with food delivered to departure gates through GoEatMDW.com or displayed QR codes. Hudson Nonstop in Concourse B offers Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology for a streamlined and contact-free checkout experience.

Be Aware of Construction
Passengers will find that construction continues at O’Hare, especially in Terminal 5 and along the curbsides and roadways of Terminals 1, 2 and 3. While these projects create temporary disruptions to airport operations, they are essential as the CDA works to fulfill “O’Hare 21” — a curb-to-gate transformation that meets the traveling public’s needs for the 21st century and beyond. These continued investments will deliver the airport of tomorrow while creating economic benefits for Chicago’s communities. More background about the need for this massive infrastructure investment is available in a recent CNN Travel piece.

The outmoded passenger tunnels between the CTA Blue Line at O’Hare and Terminals 1, 2 and 3 have been fully replaced with new, modern designs that provide a welcoming atmosphere for visitors to Chicago. The remediation work repaired water infiltration that built up over decades to make it possible to replace the architectural finishes.

The City of Chicago is investing more than $1 billion to expand Terminal 5 into a modern facility that serves both international and domestic passengers. New security checkpoint lanes opened last year to handle new passenger traffic from major domestic carriers, such as Southwest Airlines. A new baggage handling system, additional gate space, and a 66% increase in passenger amenity space is set to open in phases over the next nine months.

Site preparation is also taking place in the Lot D parking lot next to Terminal 5 for construction of a new, six-story garage that will double parking capacity on the site.

At O’Hare Terminals 1, 2, and 3, curbsides are being rebuilt with elevated crosswalks for greater accessibility. At Midway, parking structure improvements include upgraded pavement and ramps. The Midway Kiss ‘n’ Ride implemented multiple ADA improvements, including a designated passenger loading and unloading zone, a raised accessible path, and new signage.

O’Hare Ground Transportation Updates
Since last month, O’Hare’s Airport Transit System (ATS) has been operating round-the-clock, with stops at Terminals 1, 2, 3, 5 and the Multi-Modal Facility. Lot F at the Mutli-Modal Facility has parking available for $22 a day.

The ATS reduces road congestion and emissions, as fewer cars and buses are needed to travel between terminals, parking lots and ground transportation facilities. Each three-car train can carry 147 passengers, with service operating every three minutes. The three-mile trip between Terminal 1 and the MMF takes only 10 minutes, with five total stops.

Bus shuttle service connects Economy Parking Lots G and H to the Multi-Modal Facility for transfer to the Multi-Modal Facility. To meet the increased demand for economy parking, O’Hare is adding 500 spaces for overflow parking as needed. These areas will also be served by the bus shuttle service.

Parking in Lot D, typically used by those picking up and dropping off international passengers at Terminal 5, is currently limited as ground crews prepare for work on the new parking garage. Those greeting passengers at Terminal 5 are advised to use the Cell Phone Lot at 560 N. Bessie Coleman Drive or park in the Main Parking Garage and use the ATS to transfer back to Terminal 5.

Top Events in Chicago
Notable events happening this weekend to kick off summer fun in Chicago:

A complete list of activities for Memorial Day weekend can be found on the Choose Chicago website.

General Information
Travelers bound for Chicago’s airports can make the most informed decisions about how to access any of the above airport services by visiting flychicago.com.  The website contains real-time information about flights, parking updates, taxicab wait times, available concession businesses, and other special alerts for the traveling public. The updated “My Flight” search page shows specific flight updates along with amenities located near the flight gate and other targeted travel resources.

The public is reminded that access to airport terminals at both O’Hare and Midway is restricted at all times to ticketed passengers, those assisting passengers, badged employees, and others with legitimate airport business.

About the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA): The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) is self-supporting, using no local or state tax dollars for operations or capital improvements at O’Hare and Midway International Airports. Chicago’s airports offer service to over 260 nonstop destinations worldwide, including 47 foreign countries, combined. Together, Chicago’s airports serve more than 105 million passengers each year and generate approximately $60 billion in annual economic activity for the region. Please visit flychicago.com to learn more about the Chicago Department of Aviation.


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