O’Hare, Midway Prepared To Welcome 1.7 Million Passengers Over Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Week

November 21, 2022

Travelers Should Arrive Early, Allow Extra Travel Time Over Holiday Week, Historically One of Busiest Travel Periods Each Year


The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) is ready to welcome approximately 1.7 million travelers to O’Hare and Midway International Airports between Tuesday, Nov. 22 and Monday, Nov. 28 for the historically busy Thanksgiving holiday weekend based on projections from airline carriers, a 6.6% increase over the same period last year. 

“The CDA appreciates the valuable role that O’Hare and Midway play in bringing friends and families together from across the nation and the world to gather at Thanksgiving dinner tables,” CDA Commissioner Jamie L. Rhee said. “We have no higher priority this holiday season than providing a safe and secure environment for all of our passengers, employees and the entire aviation community.” 

Compared to the same Thanksgiving travel period last year, O’Hare is expected to see a passenger increase of 2.7%, and airlines project that Sunday, Nov. 27 will be the busiest day. Airlines project that Midway will experience an increase in passengers of approximately 24.1% compared to the same period in 2021, with the busiest day expected to be Wednesday, Nov. 23.  

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) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) 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 TSA checkpoints are available at FlyChicago.com

At O’Hare, a CLEAR Lane and enrollment are now available in Terminal 5 for PreCheck-eligible travelers and standard security. CLEAR Lanes are also available at O’Hare Terminals 1 and 2, and at Midway. 

To expedite the screening process, travelers should consult TSA guidelines to ensure there are no prohibited items in their carry-on or checked baggage and that all foods — including cranberry sauce or gravy — are packed in accordance with the TSA’s rules regarding liquids

Prevent Traffic Congestion
Traffic back-ups into both O’Hare and Midway can come early and often in the days that surround Thanksgiving. 

The following tips can help keep congestion to a minimum throughout the week: 

  • 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 (MMF), with access to the Airport Transit System (ATS). 
  • Kiss n’ Fly drop-offs are 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 ATS for a short ride to Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 5. 
  • Cell Phone Lots are completely free and available at both airports. Avoid circling the curb zone area and wait in the convenient 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. 

New Concessions Highlights
One of O’Hare’s newest concessionaires, The Burger Federation, won the Chicago’s Best Burger award at this year’s Chicago Gourmet Hamburger Hop for its Little Miss Figgy Burger, which is topped with a camembert and fig fondue, bacon vindaloo and pickled pepper relish. See what all the buzz is about in Terminal 3’s L Concourse. 

Hudson Nonstop, a new retailer designed around Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology, is also now open at O’Hare in Terminal 1’s B Concourse. Customers can enter the store with their credit card, pick up their must-have travel essentials – ranging from snacks and goodies to trendy electronics and wellness items – and then leave the store, eliminating the need to wait in checkout lines or stopping to pay in-store. Chicago’s first Hudson Nonstop location opened at Midway’s Concourse B in 2021. 

At Midway, new concessionaire Big Bowl is bringing the flavors of China and Thailand to the Central Market with a menu featuring seasonal ingredients and offerings like pot stickers, stir-fry and noodle dishes. The Midway outpost of the popular Lettuce Entertain You restaurant begins with the highest quality ingredients — naturally raised meat, sustainable seafood and produce grown locally. Wash it all down with hand-crafted cocktails, artisan ginger ale and local beer and wine selections. Another Big Bowl location can be found at O’Hare in Terminal 5. 

Terminal 5 Parking Lot D
Earlier this month, capacity in Terminal 5’s Parking Lot D was reduced as construction crews continue work on a new, six-story parking garage that will serve the expanded terminal for domestic and international service. The existing pedestrian bridge connecting Lot D to Terminal 5 is now closed, and a temporary pedestrian walkway has been opened to connect pedestrians to the terminal. 

Passengers traveling through Terminal 5, as well as locals picking up arriving passengers, should allow for extra time when parking, and consider alternatives to parking in Lot D. 

Other parking lots at O’Hare remain open, such as Economy Lot F in the airport’s MMF, conveniently located just minutes from Terminal 5 on the ATS. Economy Parking Lot G is also being expanded to accommodate increased demand, and overflow parking will be opened as needed. 

Check Parking Updates Before You Leave
Economy lots at O’Hare often reach capacity on busy holiday weekends. Passengers planning to park at O’Hare are encouraged to check the status of available parking before leaving for O'Hare at flychicago.com/ORDParking. Reserved parking is also available on a limited basis for certain O’Hare lots, visit FlyChicago.com for more information

Delta Air Lines Moved to Terminal 5
Delta Air Lines passengers should be aware that the carrier moved its operations last month from its longtime home in Terminal 2 to newly renovated gates in Terminal 5 as part of the $1 billion expansion and renovation of the terminal, which is nearing completion. Delta is using gates M2 to M11 in Terminal 5. The airline's new Delta Sky Club, located in Terminal 5 between Gates M11 and M14, can accommodate nearly 400 customers, approximately four times the capacity of its old club in Terminal 2. 

The expansion of Terminal 5 is expected to be finished over the next year. Upgrades to the baggage handling system are ongoing, seven new gates have been opened since this summer, and additional building elements and passenger amenities will open in phases through 2023. 

Travel Safely
Chicago is currently at a “Medium” risk level for COVID-19, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). While there are no current mandates, the CDPH strongly recommends wearing a 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. 

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. 

‘American Heroes’ Exhibit at Midway
Earlier this month, the CDA and Belmont Village Senior Living hosted a grand opening for a new gallery exhibit titled “American Heroes: Portraits of Service” at Midway International Airport, located in the pedestrian walkway between the CTA Orange Line station and the Midway concourses. 

Organized by the CDA in partnership with Belmont Village Senior Living and co-sponsored by Harrison Street, the specially-curated exhibit features portraits of 65 senior veterans from across the country who served America during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, captured by nationally recognized photographer Thomas Sanders.  

Terminal Construction on the Horizon
Following a thorough review, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued its final decision today finding there is no significant environmental impact of the proposed Terminal Area Plan, clearing the way to start construction on two new satellite concourses at O’Hare International Airport and ultimately the O’Hare Global Terminal. These terminal projects are critical components of the O’Hare 21 capital program, which will transform the airport’s terminal complex to meet the needs of the traveling public through the 21st century and beyond. The decision clears the way for construction to begin on the satellite concourses when the ground thaws in the spring.  

New Air Service
Air Serbia has announced that it will start new, twice-weekly service to Belgrade from O’Hare on May 17, 2023, and increase it to three times a week on June 12, 2023. Last month, Air New Zealand re-launched its service from O’Hare to Auckland, resuming a direct link to New Zealand’s largest city and reestablishing Chicago as one of just five cities on the planet with direct air service to every inhabited continent. 

Other recent international service news in Chicago includes: 

  • Air Nippon Airways resumed its daily service from O’Hare to Tokyo Haneda on Oct. 30, following a relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in Japan, which complements its existing daily service to Tokyo Narita airport  
  • American Airlines launched service from O’Hare to Owen Roberts International Airport in the Cayman Islands on Nov. 19  
  • Frontier Airlines will launch service from Midway to Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, Jamaica, in February 2023  
  • United Airlines will launch seasonal service from O’Hare to Barcelona, Spain and Shannon, Ireland in spring 2023  

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 update “My Flight” search page shows specific flight updates along with amenities located near the flight gate and other targeted travel resources. 


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