O'Hare International Airport

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Chicago O'Hare International Airport
O'Hare Airport Logo.jpg
Chicago as seen from a commercial flight 14.JPG
Airport type Public
Owner City of Chicago
Operator Chicago Department of Aviation
Serves Chicago
Location Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Opened February 1944 (1944-02)[1]
Hub for
Focus city for
Elevation AMSL 668 ft / 204 m
Coordinates 41°58′43″N 87°54′17″W / 41.97861°N 87.90472°W / 41.97861; -87.90472Coordinates: 41°58′43″N 87°54′17″W / 41.97861°N 87.90472°W / 41.97861; -87.90472
Website www.flychicago.com/ohare
ORD is located in Chicago
ORD is located in Illinois
ORD is located in the US
Location of airport in Chicago
Direction Length Surface
ft m
4L/22R 7,500 2,286 Asphalt
4R/22L 8,075 2,461 Asphalt
9L/27R 7,500 2,286 Concrete
9R/27L 7,967 2,428 Asphalt/Concrete
10R/28L 7,500 2,286 Concrete
10C/28C 10,801 3,292 Concrete
10L/28R 13,000 3,962 Asphalt/Concrete
15/33 9,686 2,952 Asphalt/Concrete
Number Length Surface
ft m
H1 200 61 Concrete
Statistics (2016)
Passenger volume 77,960,588
Aircraft movements 867,635
Cargo (metric tonnes) 1,726,361.6
Economic impact (2012) $14.1 billion[4]
Sources: FAA[5] and airport's website.[6]
Statistics from ACI[7] and airport website.[8]

Chicago O'Hare International Airport (IATA: ORDICAO: KORDFAA LID: ORD), also known as O'Hare Airport, Chicago International Airport, Chicago O'Hare or simply O'Hare, is an international airport on the Far Northwest Side of Chicago, Illinois, 17 miles (27 km) northwest of the Loop. It is the primary airport serving the Chicago metropolitan area, with Midway International Airport, about 10 miles (16 km) closer to the Loop, serving as a secondary airport. It is operated by the City of Chicago Department of Aviation.[9]

O'Hare was the busiest airport in the world by number of takeoffs and landings in 2014, topping Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (which held the title from 2005 to 2013); however, it lost the title to Atlanta a year later. Until 1998, O'Hare was also the world's busiest airport in number of passengers. It was surpassed mainly due to limits the federal government imposed on the airport to reduce flight delays.[10] As of 2016, O'Hare is the sixth-busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic, the third-busiest airport in the United States, and the busiest airport in the Midwest. O'Hare also has eight runways,[11] more than any major international airport.[12]

As of January 2017, O'Hare has direct service to 208 destinations, including 153 domestic destinations in the United States and 55 international destinations in North America, South America, Asia and Europe.[13] O'Hare is among a select group of airports worldwide with the distinction of serving more than 200 destinations, along with Heathrow, Frankfurt, Atatürk, Amsterdam, Charles de Gaulle, Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Munich, and Dubai.[citation needed]

O'Hare is a major hub for American Airlines and United Airlines, as well as a hub for regional carrier Air Choice One and a focus city for Frontier Airlines[2] and Spirit Airlines.[3] It is the second-largest passenger-carrying hub for United after Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport carrying 15.3 million passengers annually, and largest by number of daily flights, operating 585 flights daily.[14] O'Hare is American's third-largest hub, behind Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Charlotte Douglas International Airport, and third-largest by number of daily flights, operating 527 daily flights to 120 destinations, including 201 mainline flights daily.[15][16]

O'Hare was voted the "Best Airport in North America" for 10 years by two separate sources: Readers of the U.S. Edition of Business Traveler Magazine (1998–2003) and Global Traveler Magazine (2004–2007).[17][18] In contrast, Travel and Leisure magazine's 2009 "America's Favorite Cities" ranked Chicago's Airport System (O'Hare and Midway) the second-worst for delays, behind the New York City airport system (JFK, Newark Liberty, and LaGuardia).[19] O'Hare accounts for nearly 20% of the nation's flight cancellations and delays.[20]


Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat on display in O'Hare's Terminal 2, restored in the markings of "Butch" O'Hare's plane

World War II[edit]

O'Hare was constructed in 1942–43 as part of a manufacturing plant for Douglas C-54s during World War II.[21] The site was chosen for its proximity to the city and transportation.[21] The two-million-square-foot (180,000 m²) factory needed easy access to the workforce of the nation's then-second-largest city, as well as its extensive railroad infrastructure. Orchard Place was a small nearby farming community.[21]

Douglas Company's contract ended in 1945 and though plans were proposed to build commercial aircraft, the company ultimately chose to concentrate production on the west coast. With the departure of Douglas; the airfield took the name of Orchard Field Airport, the source of its three-letter IATA code ORD.[citation needed]

In 1945, the city of Chicago chose Orchard Field as the site for a facility to meet future aviation demands. Matthew Laflin Rockwell (1915–1988) was the director of planning for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and responsible for the site selection and design.[citation needed] He was the great-grandson of Matthew Laflin, a founder and pioneer of Chicago.[citation needed]

In 1949, the airport was renamed O'Hare International Airport to honor Edward O'Hare, the U.S. Navy's first flying ace and Medal of Honor recipient in World War II. Its IATA code, "ORD", remained unchanged, however, resulting in O'Hare being one of the rare instances of an airport's three-letter designation bearing no connection to the airport's current name or metropolitan area.[citation needed] (This is similar to MCO, sourced from McCoy Air Force Base, being used for Orlando International Airport, and CMH for Ohio's John Glenn Columbus International Airport whose original name was Columbus Municipal Hangar.)

Commercial development[edit]

Airline Operations[22] (Takeoffs Plus Landings)
Midway O'Hare
1955 321,882 10,668
1956 311,964 36,762
1957 341,316 57,692
1958 337,421 66,205
1959 345,170 82,417
1960 298,582 163,351
1961 187,978 235,908
1962 46,873 331,090
1963 19,054 358,266
1964 19,017 389,640
1965 16,716 443,026
1966 5,090 478,644
1967 4,427 573,506
1968 26,941 628,632
1969 31,394 632,030
1970 43,553 598,973
1971 51,734 565,826
1972 41,531 581,607
1973 37,526 592,518
1975 5,355 531,530
1976 1,532 594,340

By the early 1950s Midway Airport, Chicago's main airport since 1931, was the world's busiest airport and was too crowded despite multiple expansions. Midway's runways were known to be too short for the planned first generation of jets, so the city of Chicago and the FAA began to develop O'Hare as the main airport for Chicago's future.

In 1953, while flying to an airshow at Naval Air Station Glenview north of Chicago, Blue Angels pilot LT Harding MacKnight experienced an engine flameout in his F7U Cutlass, forcing him to make an emergency landing at NAS Glenview.[citation needed] Traveling with him, LT "Whitey" Feightner was redirected to land at O'Hare.[citation needed] The runway had just been completed and was covered with peach baskets to prevent aircraft from landing until it was opened. LT Feightner was told to ignore the baskets and land on the new runway, and his F7U became the first aircraft to land there.[citation needed]

Scheduled passenger flights started in 1955 and at the end of 1956 O'Hare was served by American, BOAC, Braniff, Capital, Delta, Eastern, North Central, Pan Am, TWA and United, along with freight airlines Riddle and Slick.[23] O'Hare opened a $1 million "Skymotive" terminal for corporate aircraft in 1955, the first of its kind.[24]

Growth was slow at first. By 1957 Chicago had invested over $25 million in O'Hare, but Midway remained the world's busiest airport and airlines were reluctant to move all of their services to O'Hare until better highway access and other improvements were completed.[25] The April 1957 Official Airline Guide shows 10 weekday departures on United, 9 on American, 6 on Capital, 3 Eastern, 3 TWA, 2 Delta, 2 North Central, and 1 Braniff. Also three weekly Pan Am and one weekly BOAC (Air France and Lufthansa were at Midway). O'Hare's first dedicated international terminal opened in August 1958. By April 1959 the airport had expanded to 7,200 acres (29 km2) with new hangars, terminals, parking and other facilities. The expressway link to downtown Chicago, then known as the Northwest Expressway, was completed in 1960.[23]

Ground was broken for the main terminal complex (of which Terminals 2 and 3 remain today) on April 1, 1959.[26] The complex, designed by C. F. Murphy and Associates, opened on January 1, 1962.[26][27]

In July 1962 the last fixed-wing scheduled airline flight in Chicago moved from Midway to O'Hare. President John F. Kennedy attended a dedication ceremony in 1963. After Kennedy was assassinated later that year, the section of Interstate 90 between downtown Chicago and O'Hare was renamed in his honor.[23] The arrival of Midway's traffic quickly made O'Hare the world's busiest airport, serving 10 million passengers annually. Within two years that number would double, with more people passing through O'Hare in 12 months than Ellis Island had processed in its entire existence. By 1967, Midway was nearly abandoned, with barely 4,400 airline operations, but Chicago city officials reached an agreement with airlines, in late 1972, to shift some services back to Midway to ease the crowding at O'Hare.[28] (Midway enjoyed another revival after startup carrier Midway Airlines began low-cost service there in 1979–80.)[29]

O'Hare remained the world's busiest airport (by airline operations) until 1998.[30]

Pre-deregulation service[edit]

American Airlines, United Airlines and Trans World Airlines had many routes to the West Coast, Northeast and Midwest. TWA flew to Europe nonstop from O'Hare starting in 1958.[31][32][33] Northwest Orient Airlines flew to the Northeast, Pacific Northwest, Florida and Hawaii, and via Alaska to Japan and the Far East.[34] Their 747 to Tokyo was O'Hare's first nonstop to Asia, in 1977. Delta Air Lines served the Southeast and Midwest.[35]

During this era international flights (other than Canada) used Concourses B and C in Terminal 1. Braniff, Eastern, Northwest, Continental and Piedmont used Concourse D in Terminal 2. United was the main tenant in Concourses E and F of Terminal 2, with Ozark also using gates in Concourse F. In Terminal 3, Concourse G served TWA and Air Canada, and Concourses H and K served American, Delta and North Central (later merged into Republic Airlines). Concourse A was, at one time, a satellite terminal for commuter airlines at the west end of the terminal complex.[36]

Post-deregulation developments[edit]

In the 1980s, after deregulation, TWA replaced Chicago with St. Louis as its main mid-continent hub.[37] Although TWA had one of the largest Chicago operations during the late 1970s, its operation was losing $25 million a year under intense competition from United and American. TWA attempted to compete with an all-coach service to the West Coast at the lowest prices in the market, but American and United eventually matched TWA's fares during the recession of 1979–81, and TWA ended the service. In 1982, TWA swapped three of its Chicago gates for five of American's St. Louis gates, setting the stage for TWA's transition to St. Louis.[38]

Northwest likewise shifted to a Minneapolis and Detroit-centered network by the early 1990s following its acquisition of Republic Airlines in 1986.[39] On January 17, 1980, the airport's weather station became the official point for Chicago's weather observations and records by the National Weather Service.[40]

The nationwide hubs established at O'Hare in the 1980s by United and American continue to operate today. United developed a new US$500 million Terminal 1 ("The Terminal of the Future" or "Terminal of Tomorrow"), which was designed by Helmut Jahn and A. Epstein and Sons,[41] with Turner Construction as the construction manager,[42] and Thornton Tomasetti serving as the structural engineer.[43] It was built between 1985 and 1987 on the site of the old international terminal. Ground was broken for the new terminal complex in March 1985.[42] The terminal opened with 13 gates on June 15, 1987.[44] The terminal, which included ticketing and baggage claim areas, as well as 29 additional gates, was officially dedicated on August 4, 1987, with Mayor Harold Washington in attendance.[45] Concourse D of Terminal 2 was demolished in order to make way for the rest of the terminal, which was completed in December 1988.[46] American renovated its existing facilities in Terminal 3 from 1987 to 1990. These renovations were designed by Kober/Belluschi Associates, Inc. and Welton Becket & Associates.[47] Delta maintained a Chicago hub for some time, and opened a new Concourse L, initially known as the "Delta Flight Center", designed by Perkins and Will and Milton Pate & Associates, in Terminal 3 in 1983, but ultimately closed its Chicago hub in the 1990s.[47]

Total annual passenger volume at O'Hare reached 30 million in 1968, 40 million in 1976, 60 million in 1990 and 70 million in 1997.[23]

A $80 million renovation of Concourse G in Terminal 3 designed by Teng & Associates, Inc. began in the spring of 1999[48] and finished in the spring of 2001. The concourse was enlarged into a 144,500-square-foot (13,420 m2) facility with 25 remodeled gates. Six large "sky vaults", huge skylights atop V-shaped columns that bring natural light into a previously confined space, were constructed. A new 4,138-square-foot (384.4 m2) Admirals Club was also added to the concourse.[49]

Delta moved from Terminal 3 to Terminal 2 in 2009 to align its operations with merger partner Northwest. Continental moved from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 in 2010 before merging with United.[50]

In 2013 the Chicago Department of Aviation appropriated a $19,500 two-year contract to use livestock, specifically goats, sheep, llamas, and burros, for grounds maintenance.[51] This plan resulted from difficulties in reaching certain areas around the runways with traditional lawn mowing machines due to rocky or sloped terrain.[52] About 25 animals were recruited chiefly to clear growing vegetation around the approximately 120-acre (49 ha) space around the runways.[53] A secondary reason for the introduction of the animals, especially the llamas and burros, was to reduce interference from wildlife such as coyotes and birds that may come when smaller prey settle in unmaintained, grassy areas.[54]

United States Air Force use[edit]

See: O'Hare Air Reserve Station

The original Douglas Aircraft C-54 Skymaster transport manufacturing plant on the northeast side of the airport became a United States Air Force Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve facility after World War II.[citation needed] It was used by the United States Air Force from 1947 until 1999 as O'Hare Air Reserve Station, making the airport a joint civil-military airfield during this period.[citation needed]

The 1993 Base Realignment and Closure Commission ("1993 Commission") recommended the closure of O'Hare Air Reserve Station[55] as proposed by the municipal government of the City of Chicago and the transfer of both the Illinois Air National Guard's 126th Air Refueling Wing (126 ARW) and its KC-135 aircraft, and the Air Force Reserve Command's 928th Airlift Wing (928 AW) and its C-130 aircraft to new facilities to be constructed at Greater Rockford Airport, "55 miles northwest of O’Hare International Airport."[55] The 1993 Commission stated that the city of Chicago would be required to bear the costs of moving these units.[55] The 1995 Base Realignment and Closure Commission ("1995 Commission") modified the recommendation by stating that the units should instead be moved to Scott AFB, Illinois.[56] The 126 ARW moved from the former O'Hare Air Reserve Station to Scott AFB, Illinois in 1999 as recommended by the 1995 Commission's report in conjunction with the closure of the Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard facilities at O'Hare. Instead of moving to Scott AFB, subsequent BRAC action directed that the 928 AW be inactivated and its C-130 aircraft reallocated to other Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units.[56]

Following the closure of the O'Hare Air Reserve Station, the former United States Air Force facilities were redeveloped for air cargo and general aviation. This was partly necessitated by the abrupt closure of Meigs Field in 2003, which diverted general aviation in Chicago to O'Hare and Midway. Today, Signature Flight Support services private aircraft in this area.[citation needed]



Most of O'Hare Airport is in Cook County, but a section of the southwest part is in DuPage County. The airport is within a section of the City of Chicago contiguously connected to the rest of the city by a narrow strip of land about 200 ft (61 m) wide, running along Foster Avenue, from the Des Plaines River to the airport.[57][58] This land was annexed into the city limits in the 1950s to assure the massive tax revenues associated with the airport would go to the city.[citation needed] The strip is bounded on the north by Rosemont and the south by Schiller Park.[59]


Runway layout at ORD

On October 17, 2013, O'Hare opened Runway 10C-28C. The opening of this eighth runway marked the completion of the Phase II expansion project. O'Hare landings have been reconfigured to predominately use a triple arrival scheme using three of the four parallel runways, with the fourth runway being used for takeoffs.

Before the opening of 10C-28C, the new runway, 9L/27R which opened in November 2008, O'Hare had seven runways in three roughly-parallel sets. The longest is Runway 10L–28R, 13,001 by 150 feet (3,963 m × 46 m). Runways 9L, 10C, 10L, 15, 27L, 27R, 28C and 28R have Category III instrument landing systems (ILS),[60] allowing trained aircrews to conduct landings with as little as 600 feet (180 m) of horizontal visibility. All other runway approaches except 4L and 33 have full Category I ILS. Runway 4L is seldom used for landings and has a localizer, the horizontal guidance component of an ILS system, but does not have a glide slope, the vertical component. Runway 33 (former runway 32L) was permanently closed to landings when the section south of the crossing with Runway 10L/28R was closed due to 10C/28C construction.[61]

Prior to the runway reconfiguration, all of O'Hare's runways intersected each other with the exception of 4R/22L. This created problems in inclement weather, busy times, or high winds, and several near-collisions. The redevelopment, which essentially eliminates most active runway intersections, is intended to reduce collision hazards and delays.

The field opened with four clustered runways; in March 1950 all were 5,500 to 5,750 feet (1,680–1,750 m) long. Runway 14 (later 14L) became 7,345 feet (2,239 m) around 1952; the 8,000-foot (2,400 m) Runway 15/33 (former 14R/32L) opened in 1956 and became 11,600 feet (3,500 m) long in 1960. The 10,000-foot (3,000 m) 9R/27L (now designated 10L/28R) opened in 1968 and 14L became 10,000 feet (3,000 m) long around the same time. 4R/22L opened in 1971 and the new 9L/27R in 2008. In 2003 the fourth original runway, (18/36) closed; its short length, lack of use, and placement no longer justified certification. Runway 18/36 is now Taxiway M on airport charts. On August 19, 2015, Runway 14L/32R was closed.[62]

The redevelopment, when completed, will remove the two northwest–southeast runways (former 14/32 L/R), construct four additional east–west runways (10C/28C, 10R/28L, 9L/27R, and 9C/27C), and extend the existing east–west runways (9R/27L and 10L/28R). The two existing northeast–southwest (4/22 L/R) runways will be retained. Currently, three of the four new runways have been constructed (9L/27R, 10C/28C, and 10R/28L), and one of the two extensions (10L/28R) is complete.

In the earlier airfield layout, the former 32L was often used for takeoffs in a shortened configuration. Planes reached the runway at Taxiway T10 (common) or Taxiway N, formerly M (not common). This shortened the runway but allowed operations on Runway 10L/28R to continue without restriction. The full length of the runway was available upon request, though with the extension of 10L/28R it was usually not needed. In May 2010 Runway 15/33 was permanently shortened to 9,685 feet (2,952 m) and it now starts at Taxiway N.

O'Hare has a voluntary nighttime (2200–0700) noise abatement program.[63]

The runway reconfiguration at O'Hare will also improve the airport for future Airbus A380 service. On July 5, 2007 the runway previously designated 9R/27L became runway 10/28. On May 2, 2013, that same runway (10/28) became 10L/28R. On August 30, 2007, runway 9L/27R became 9R/27L.[64]

On September 25, 2008, a 2,857-foot (871 m) extension to 10L/28R opened.[65] On May 2, 2013, airport diagrams published by the FAA depicted the runway previously designated 10/28 as 10L/28R.[66]

Runway 10C/28C was commissioned and opened for regular use on October 17, 2013.[67] On October 17, 2013, airport diagrams published by the FAA depicted the runway as open.[60]

On October 15, 2015, Runway 10R/28L was commissioned. The new 7,500-foot runway will be used almost exclusively for landings toward the east up until 10 p.m. daily. The runway will increase arrival and departure rates at O'Hare by about 25 percent in good weather, all while handling only 5 percent of all daytime flights annually over the next five years. However, the runway sits on the southernmost part of the airfield which aligns roughly with Irving Park Road in Bensenville. Since the runway is several miles from the passenger terminals, the average taxi time is estimated at about 20 minutes. The cost of the runway and a taxiway was $516 million, and they are being controlled by a new air-traffic control tower that cost $41 million to build, according to the FAA and the Chicago Department of Aviation.[68]

Intra-airport transportation[edit]

Airport Transit System with Hilton Hotel in Background

Passengers within the airport complex can travel via a 2.5 mi (4 km)-long automated people mover that operates 24-hours a day, connecting all four terminals landside and the remote parking lots. The system began operation on May 6, 1993, and beginning in summer 2015, will undergo a US$240 million enhancement to add 15 new cars, upgrade the current infrastructure, and to extend the line to a new consolidated rental car facility where lot F is currently situated.[69][70]

Other facilities[edit]

Nippon Cargo Airlines has its Americas regional office on the O'Hare property.[71]

A large air cargo complex on the southwest side of the field opened in 1984, replacing most of the old cargo area, which stood on the site now occupied by e Terminal 5. This complex sits right in the path for new runway 10C/28C, and will be replaced by a new facility located on the northeastern portion of the airfield.[72]

The new North Terminal Air Traffic Control Tower was completed in September 2008 and commissioned for use on November 20, 2008.[73] The new tower was designed by DMJM Aviation-Holmes & Narver Aviation Partners JV (design principal Jose Luis Palacios).[74]

The USO has a facility in Terminal 2 for the use of traveling military personnel, as well as military recruits going to Recruit Training Command, which has a booth at O'Hare to coordinate transportation to Naval Station Great Lakes for Naval recruits arriving via airplane.[75]

Along with several other airports around the world, O'Hare has used portions of some of its land to allow urban bee keeping. Intended to raise the environmental profile of airports – with 75 hives, O'Hare is the world's largest airport bee keeper, as of 2015.[76]


A terminal map of O'Hare Airport
Passengers stranded overnight are provided a secure area with dimmed lights, cots, pillows, blankets, and toiletries.[77]

O'Hare has four numbered passenger terminals with nine lettered concourses and a total of 182 gates. Two or more additional terminal buildings are envisioned; there is the possibility of a large terminal complex for the west side of the field, with access from I-90 and/or the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway, if the runway reconfiguration is completed and passenger numbers require additional terminals.

With the exception of flights from destinations with U.S. Customs and Border Protection preclearance, all inbound international flights arrive at Terminal 5, as the other terminals do not have screening facilities. Several carriers, such as American, Iberia, Lufthansa and United, with outbound international flights depart from Terminals 1 and 3. This arrangement requires that passengers disembark at Terminal 5 and then, crews tow the empty plane to another terminal for boarding. This is done, in part to make connections for passengers transferring from domestic flights to international flights easier, since while Terminals 1, 2, and 3 allow airside connections, Terminal 5 is separated from the other terminals by a set of taxiways that cross over the airport's access road, requiring passengers to exit security, ride the Airport Transit System, then reclear security in either direction.

Terminal 1[edit]

United Airlines Terminal 1, Concourse B
An underground pedestrian walkway connects Concourse B to Concourse C, illuminated by a neon light show
United Airlines Terminal 1, Concourse C

Terminal 1 is used for United Airlines flights, including all mainline flights and some United Express operations, as well as flights for Star Alliance partners Lufthansa and All Nippon Airways. It has 50 gates on two concourses:

  • Concourse B – 22 gates
  • Concourse C – 28 gates

Concourses B and C are linear concourses located in separate buildings parallel to each other. Concourse B is adjacent to the airport roadway and houses passenger check-in, baggage claim and security screening on its landside and aircraft gates on its airside. Concourse C is a satellite terminal with gates on all sides, in the middle of the ramp, and is connected to Concourse B via an underground pedestrian tunnel under the ramp. The tunnel originates between gates B8 and B9 in Concourse B, and ends on Concourse C between gates C17 and C19. The tunnel is illuminated with a neon installation titled Sky's the Limit (1987) by Canadian artist Michael Hayden, which plays an airy and very slow-tempo version of "Rhapsody in Blue".

United also runs a post-security shuttle bus service between Concourse C (at gate C9) in Terminal 1 and Concourses E & F (at gate E4) in Terminal 2. The airline operates three United Clubs in Terminal 1: one on Concourse B near gate B6, one located near gate B16, and one on Concourse C near gate C16. There is also a United First International Lounge and United Arrivals Suite in Concourse C near gate C18.

Terminal 1 houses All Nippon Airways's Chicago office.[78]

Terminal 2[edit]

Terminal 2 houses Air Canada as well as Delta Air Lines and Delta Connection domestic flights (Delta's wintertime international service between O'Hare and Paris operates from Terminal 5 as the gates in Terminal 2 do not accommodate the Boeing 767-300ER normally assigned to that route). Terminal 2 is also used for most of the United Express operations, although check-in counters for these flights are in Terminal 1. There is a United Club in Concourse F near gate F8, and a Delta Sky Club on Concourse E near gate E6. United Continental Holdings, United's parent company, is currently upgrading its facilities at Terminal 2, including constructing 10 new jet bridges for the regional flights, reconfiguring the holding rooms, and constructing United Club to replace the current lounge.[79]

US Airways operated out of Terminal 2 until it moved operations to Terminal 3 in July 2014, to be co-located with merger partner American Airlines. Check-in for US Airways remained at Terminal 2 until September 16, 2014, when ticket counters relocated to Terminal 3.[80]

Terminal 2 has 43 gates on two concourses:

  • Concourse E – 17 gates
  • Concourse F – 26 gates

Terminal 3[edit]

American Airlines Terminal 3 Main Hall
American Airlines Terminal 3, Concourse H

Terminal 3 houses all American Airlines flights, as well as departures for select Oneworld carriers including Air Berlin, Iberia, and Japan Airlines, plus unaffiliated low-cost carriers. Terminal 3 has 75 gates on four concourses:

  • Concourse G – 25 gates
  • Concourse H – 17 gates
  • Concourse K – 16 gates
  • Concourse L – 17 gates (5 more to be added)[81]

Concourses G and H house most American Eagle operations, while Concourses H and K house American's mainline operations. American's Oneworld partners Japan Airlines, Air Berlin, and Iberia depart from K19 and non-affiliated Alaska Airlines operates from H4. Concourse L is used also for flights operated by Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airlines, JetBlue, Virgin America and Air Choice One. The City of Chicago and American Airlines have agreed to an extension of the L Concourse to add five new gates. The gates are expected to be used primarily for American Eagle's Embraer E-175 fleet. American has agreed to pay roughly $55 to $75 million and the gates are expected to be completed by 2018.[82] The airline operates three Admirals Clubs in Terminal 3: one located in the crosswalk area between gates H6 and K6, one after security before Gate L1, and one in Concourse G across from gate G8. American also has a Flagship Lounge located near gate K19.[83]

Terminal 5 (International)[edit]

Terminal 5, with flags of countries around the world
Aircraft lined up at Terminal 5

Terminal 5 has 21 gates (9 more being added) and is designated on airport maps as Concourse M.

All of O'Hare's international arrivals (excluding flights from destinations with U.S. border preclearance, which include flights operated by Aer Lingus and Etihad Airways) are processed at Terminal 5. With the exception of select Star Alliance and Oneworld carriers that board from Terminal 1 or Terminal 3 respectively, all non-U.S. carriers except Air Canada depart from Terminal 5 (Delta is the only major U.S. carrier that uses Terminal 5, for its winter seasonal flight to Paris as terminal 2 can not handle the Boeing 767).

Terminal 5 has several airline lounges, including the Air France VIP Lounge, British Airways First Class Galleries and Business Class Terraces Lounge, Korean Air Lounge, Scandinavian Airlines Business Lounge, Swissport Lounge, and Swiss International Air Lines Lounge. The airport's U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility is located at the arrival (lower) level.

Terminal 5 underwent a $26 million renovation designed by A. Epstein and Sons International, Inc., which began in July 2012, which involved adding dining and retail post-security, including many Chicago-based restaurants and brands, updated design, and a re-engineered layout. The project was completed on April 4, 2014. Terminal 5 is run by Westfield Management.[84]

O'Hare recently[when?] developed a gate capable of accommodating the world's largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380. On February 10, 2016, the Chicago Department of Aviation approved the construction to build out a gate that could handle the Airbus aircraft.[85] The new gate, M11a is the only gate capable of handling the Airbus A380 and like other gates in Terminal 5, is designated as "common use," meaning no specific airline has exclusive control over it. Emirates and British Airways expressed interest in using their A380s on routes involving O'Hare. The gate became operational on July 19, 2016, with Emirates being the first airline to use it.[86]

Previous terminal and concourses[edit]

Old Terminal 1[edit]

Terminal 1 was the first international terminal. It opened in 1955, it became the international terminal in 1963 and was demolished in 1984 to make way for the current Terminal 1.[87] It was replaced by a temporary Terminal 4 built in 1984. The terminal was connected to Terminal 2 by a glass-enclosed hallway. It had a Y shaped concourse similar to Concourses H/K in Terminal 3.[88]

Concourse A (Terminal 1)[edit]

Old Terminal 1 also had a satellite Concourse A that served commuter airlines. Among the airlines that used to operate from this terminal were Air France, El Al, Icelandair, Mexicana de Aviación, Pan Am and Sabena.[89]

Concourse D (Terminal 2)[edit]

A Concourse D in Terminal 2 previously existed and served as the concourse for AirCal, Air Wisconsin, Braniff, Continental, Eastern, Frontier Airlines, Northwest Orient, People Express, Piedmont and United Express until it was demolished in 1988 to make room for the current Terminal 1 concourses. It consisted of 12 gates.

Terminal 4[edit]

Terminal 2 check-in

Due to the construction of Terminal 1 for United, all international arrivals and some international departures were relocated to a temporary Terminal 4 from 1984 until 1993. Terminal 4 was located on the ground floor of the main parking garage; departing and arriving passengers were transported by bus to and from their aircraft.[90] The terminal served many international carriers during this time, but was inadequate both in terms of operating area and bus loading/unloading capacity.[91]

Ground for the new $618 million International Terminal was broken on July 11, 1990, with airline executives and government officials, led by Mayor Richard M. Daley and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Samuel K. Skinner, in attendance.[92] The new Terminal 5, designed by Perkins and Will in conjunction with Heard & Associates and Consoer Townsend & Associates[93] partially opened on May 27, 1993, with its two lower levels completed to handle all international arrivals.[94] The rest of the terminal, including the departures level, opened on September 30, 1993.[95] The "Terminal 5" name was used for this new terminal in order to avoid confusion with the old Terminal 4.[91]

Since the opening of Terminal 5, Terminal 4 has been converted into the airport's facility for regional transit buses, hotel shuttles, and other ground transportation; the Terminal 4 designation may be used again in the future as new terminals are developed. The CTA Blue Line was extended to the airport in 1984.[23]

Airlines and destinations[edit]


Airlines Destinations
Aer Lingus Dublin
Aeroméxico Guadalajara, Mexico City
Seasonal Charter: Cancún, Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, San José del Cabo[96]
Air Berlin Berlin–Tegel
Air Canada Toronto–Pearson, Vancouver
Seasonal: Montréal–Trudeau
Air Canada Express Montréal–Trudeau, Toronto–Pearson
Air Choice One Burlington (IA), Decatur, Ironwood, Mason City
Air France Seasonal:[97][98] Paris–Charles de Gaulle
Air India Delhi, Hyderabad
Alaska Airlines Anchorage, Portland (OR), Seattle/Tacoma
Alitalia Seasonal:[97] Rome–Fiumicino
All Nippon Airways Tokyo–Haneda, Tokyo–Narita
American Airlines Atlanta, Austin, Beijing–Capital, Boston, Cancún, Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Hartford, Kansas City, Las Vegas, London–Heathrow, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New Orleans, New York–JFK, New York–LaGuardia, Newark, Orange County (CA), Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Pittsburgh, Portland (OR), Punta Cana, Raleigh/Durham, Reno/Tahoe, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose (CA), San José del Cabo, San Juan, Seattle/Tacoma, Shanghai–Pudong, Tampa, Tokyo–Narita, Tucson, Tulsa, Washington–National, West Palm Beach
Seasonal: Baltimore, Barcelona (begins May 5, 2017),[99] Cozumel, Dublin, Eagle/Vail, Guatemala City (begins July 8, 2017),[100] Houston–Intercontinental, Jackson Hole, Jacksonville (FL), Louisville, Manchester (UK), Mexico City, Montego Bay, Ontario (begins July 5, 2017),[100] Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Palm Springs, Puerto Vallarta, Rome–Fiumicino, Salt Lake City, San Antonio
American Eagle Akron/Canton, Albany, Albuquerque, Appleton (begins July 5, 2017),[100] Atlanta, Baltimore, Birmingham (AL) (begins July 5, 2017),[100] Bismarck, Bloomington/Normal, Boise (begins July 5, 2017),[100] Buffalo, Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, Champaign/Urbana, Charlottesville, Chattanooga, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Colorado Springs (begins July 5, 2017),[100] Columbia (MO), Columbus (OH), Dayton, Des Moines, Detroit, Dubuque, El Paso, Evansville, Fargo, Flint, Fayetteville (AR), Fort Wayne, Grand Rapids, Green Bay, Greensboro (begins July 5, 2017),[100] Greenville/Spartanburg (begins July 5, 2017),[100] Harrisburg, Hartford, Hattiesburg/Laurel (begins June 2, 2017),[101] Houston–Intercontinental, Huntsville, Indianapolis, Jacksonville (FL), Kalamazoo, Kansas City, Knoxville, La Crosse, Lansing, Lexington, Little Rock, Louisville, Madison, Manhattan (KS), Marquette, Memphis, Meridian (MS) (begins June 2, 2017),[102] Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Moline–Quad City, Montréal–Trudeau, Mosinee, Nashville, New Orleans, Newark, Norfolk, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Peoria, Pittsburgh, Providence, Richmond, Rochester (MN), Rochester (NY), St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Sioux City, Sioux Falls, Springfield/Branson, Syracuse, Toledo, Toronto–Pearson, Traverse City, Tulsa, Washington–National, Waterloo (IA), White Plains, Wichita
Seasonal: Aspen, Bozeman (begins June 2, 2017),[103] Hayden/Steamboat Springs, Montrose, Rapid City
Asiana Airlines Seoul–Incheon
Austrian Airlines Vienna
Avianca El Salvador San Salvador
British Airways London–Heathrow
Cathay Pacific Hong Kong
Cayman Airways Seasonal: Grand Cayman
China Eastern Airlines Shanghai–Pudong
Copa Airlines Panama City
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Salt Lake City, Seattle/Tacoma (begins June 19, 2017)[104]
Seasonal:[98] Paris–Charles de Gaulle
Delta Connection Cincinnati, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York–JFK, Salt Lake City
Delta Shuttle New York–LaGuardia
Emirates Dubai–International
Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi
EVA Air Taipei–Taoyuan
Finnair Seasonal: Helsinki
Frontier Airlines Cancún, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Punta Cana, San Antonio, San Francisco
Seasonal: Austin, Charlotte, Colorado Springs (begins June 11, 2017)[105] Puerto Vallarta,[106] Portland (OR), Punta Gorda (FL), Raleigh/Durham, San José del Cabo,[106] Seattle/Tacoma, Tampa, St. Augustine, Washington–Dulles, West Palm Beach
Hainan Airlines Beijing–Capital
Iberia Madrid
Icelandair Reykjavík–Keflavík
Interjet Mexico City
Japan Airlines Tokyo–Narita
JetBlue Airways Boston, Fort Lauderdale, New York–JFK
KLM Amsterdam
Korean Air Seoul–Incheon
LOT Polish Airlines Kraków (resumes July 3, 2017),[107] Warsaw–Chopin
Lufthansa Frankfurt, Munich
Qatar Airways Doha
Royal Jordanian Amman–Queen Alia
Scandinavian Airlines Copenhagen, Stockholm–Arlanda
Spirit Airlines Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Houston–Intercontinental, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New Orleans, New York–LaGuardia, Oakland (resumes April 27, 2017), Orlando, San Diego, Tampa
Seasonal: Atlantic City, Boston, Fort Myers, Myrtle Beach, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Portland (OR)
Swiss International Air Lines Zürich
Turkish Airlines Istanbul–Atatürk
United Airlines Albany, Amsterdam, Aruba, Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Beijing–Capital, Belize City, Boston, Brussels, Buffalo, Calgary, Cancún, Charlotte, Cleveland, Columbus (OH), Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Des Moines, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Frankfurt, Grand Rapids, Harrisburg, Hartford, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Houston–Intercontinental, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Las Vegas, London–Heathrow, Los Angeles, Madison, Memphis, Mexico City, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Munich, Nashville, New Orleans, New York–LaGuardia, Newark, Norfolk, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Orange County (CA), Orlando, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Philadelphia, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Pittsburgh, Portland (OR), Providence, Raleigh/Durham, Richmond, Rochester (NY), Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose (CA),[108] San Juan, São Paulo–Guarulhos, Seattle/Tacoma, Shanghai–Pudong, Singapore, Spokane (begins June 8, 2017),[109] Syracuse (begins June 8, 2017),[110] Tampa, Tokyo–Narita, Toronto–Pearson, Vancouver, Washington–Dulles, Washington–National, Wichita
Seasonal: Albuquerque, Anchorage, Boise, Bozeman, Burlington (VT), Charleston (SC), Cincinnati, Cozumel, Dublin, Edinburgh, Fairbanks, Grand Cayman, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Jackson Hole, Jacksonville (FL), Kahului, Liberia, Missoula, Montego Bay, Montrose, Myrtle Beach, Nassau, Palm Springs, Portland (ME), Providenciales, Puerto Vallarta, Punta Cana, Reno/Tahoe (begins June 8, 2017),[109] Rome–Fiumicino, Sarasota, Shannon, Saint Lucia–Hewanorra, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, San José del Cabo, San Jose de Costa Rica, Vail/Eagle, West Palm Beach
United Express Akron/Canton, Albany, Albuquerque, Allentown, Appleton, Asheville, Aspen, Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Birmingham (AL), Boise, Boston, Buffalo, Burlington (VT), Calgary, Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, Champaign/Urbana (begins June 8, 2017),[109] Charleston (SC), Charleston (WV), Charlotte, Charlottesville (begins June 8, 2017),[109] Chattanooga, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Columbia (MO) (begins August 1, 2017), Columbia (SC), Columbus (OH), Dallas/Fort Worth, Dayton, Des Moines, Detroit, Duluth, Eau Claire, Erie, Evansville, Flint, Fargo, Fayetteville/Bentonville, Fort Wayne, Grand Rapids, Green Bay, Greensboro, Greenville/Spartanburg, Houghton/Hancock, Harrisburg, Hartford, Houston–Intercontinental, Huntsville, Indianapolis, Jackson (MS), Jacksonville (FL), Kalamazoo, Kansas City, Knoxville, Lansing, Lexington, Lincoln, Little Rock, Louisville, Madison, Manchester (NH), Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Mobile, Moline–Quad City, Monterrey, Montréal–Trudeau, Mosinee, Muskegon, Nashville, New Orleans, New York–LaGuardia, Newark, Norfolk, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Ottawa, Paducah, Peoria, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland (ME), Providence, Raleigh/Durham, Richmond, Roanoke, Rochester (MN) (begins June 8, 2017),[109] Rochester (NY), St. Louis, Saginaw, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Savannah, Sioux Falls, South Bend, Springfield (IL), Springfield/Branson, State College, Syracuse, Toronto–Pearson, Traverse City, Tucson, Tulsa, Washington–Dulles, Washington–National, White Plains, Wichita, Wilkes–Barre/Scranton, Winnipeg
Seasonal: Bangor, Billings, Bozeman, Cody, Fort Myers, Great Falls, Gunnison/Crested Butte, Hayden/Steamboat Springs, Jackson Hole, Kalispell, Key West, Miami, Missoula, Montrose, Myrtle Beach, Nassau, Québec City, Palm Springs, Pensacola, Rapid City, Sarasota
Virgin America Los Angeles, San Francisco
Volaris Guadalajara, Huatulco (begins November 18, 2017),[111] Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo (begins November 19, 2017),[111] Mexico City, Monterrey
WestJet Seasonal: Calgary
WOW air Seasonal: Reykjavík–Keflavík (begins July 13, 2017)[112]


There are two main cargo areas at O'Hare that have warehouse, build-up/tear-down and aircraft parking facilities. The Southwest Cargo Area, adjacent to Irving Park Road, accommodates over 80% of the airport's all-cargo flights, divided among 9 buildings in two tiers. The North Cargo Area, which is a modest conversion of the former military base (the 1943 Douglas plant area), also receives air freighters. It is adjacent to the northern portion of Bessie Coleman Drive.

Two satellite cargo areas have warehouse and build-up/tear down facilities, but aircraft do not park at these. Freight is trucked to/from aircraft on other ramps. The South Cargo Area is along Mannheim Road. The East Cargo Area, adjacent to Terminal 5, was formerly the airport's only cargo section but has now mostly evolved into an airport support zone.

The Southwest Cargo Area partially lies in the path of one of the new runways (10C/28C). The redevelopment of the airfield will entail moving/replacing this primary cargo hub.

Airlines Destinations
AeroUnion Mexico City
AirBridgeCargo Airlines[113] Anchorage, Amsterdam, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston–Intercontinental, Krasnoyarsk, Los Angeles, Moscow–Domodedovo
Air China Cargo Anchorage, Beijing-Capital, Edmonton,[114] Frankfurt, New York–JFK, Shanghai-Pudong, Tianjin
Air France Cargo Dublin, New York–JFK, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Prestwick
Asiana Cargo Anchorage, Atlanta, New York–JFK, Seoul–Incheon, Seattle/Tacoma
ASL Airlines Belgium Liège
Atlas Air Anchorage, Miami, Seoul–Incheon
Cargolux Anchorage, Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Hong Kong, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Luxembourg, New York–JFK, Zhengzhou
Cathay Pacific Cargo Anchorage, New York–JFK
China Airlines Cargo Anchorage, Houston–Intercontinental, San Francisco, Seattle/Tacoma
China Cargo Airlines Anchorage, Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth
China Southern Cargo[115] Shanghai–Pudong
DHL Aviation
operated by ABX Air
DHL Aviation
operated by Atlas Air
Calgary, Cincinnati
Emirates SkyCargo[116] Brussels
Etihad Cargo[117] Abu Dhabi, Miami
EVA Air Cargo Anchorage, Taipei–Taoyuan
FedEx Express Detroit, Fort Worth/Alliance, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis, Newark, Oakland, Seattle/Tacoma, Pittsburgh
Kalitta Air Anchorage, Khabarovsk, Newark, New York–JFK
Korean Air Cargo Anchorage, Halifax, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle/Tacoma, Toronto–Pearson
LOT Polish Airlines
operated by Cargojet[118]
Lufthansa Cargo Anchorage, Atlanta, Frankfurt, Guadalajara, Los Angeles, Manchester (UK), Mexico City, New York–JFK
Lufthansa Cargo
operated by AeroLogic[119]
Nippon Cargo Airlines Anchorage, Dallas/Fort Worth, Frankfurt–Hahn, Los Angeles, New York–JFK
Qantas Freight
operated by Atlas Air[120][121][122][123]
Anchorage, Auckland, Chongqing, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Sydney
Qatar Airways Cargo[124][125][126] Amsterdam, Doha, Los Angeles, Milan–Malpensa
Silk Way Airlines[127] Baku
Singapore Airlines Cargo[128] Anchorage, Atlanta, Brussels, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Seattle/Tacoma
Turkish Airlines Cargo[129] Istanbul–Atatürk, Maastricht, Shannon
UPS Airlines Cologne/Bonn, Columbus–Rickenbacker, Louisville, Philadelphia, Portland (OR)
UPS Airlines
operated by Sky Lease Cargo
Louisville, Portland (OR)
Yangtze River Express Anchorage, Brussels, Shanghai–Pudong


Top destinations[edit]

Busiest domestic routes from ORD (Nov 2015 – Oct 2016)[130]
Rank Airport Passengers Carriers
1 New York–LaGuardia, New York 1,495,240 American, Delta, Spirit, United
2 Los Angeles, California 1,366,480 American, Frontier, Spirit, United, Virgin America
3 San Francisco, California 1,279,720 American, Frontier, United, Virgin America
4 Atlanta, Georgia 1,014,210 American, Delta, Frontier, Spirit, United
5 Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas 1,008,320 American, Spirit, United
6 Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota 969,190 American, Delta, Frontier, Spirit, United
7 Boston, Massachusetts 944,080 American, JetBlue, Spirit, United
8 Denver, Colorado 928,860 American, Frontier, Spirit, United
9 Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Arizona 755,200 American, Frontier, Spirit, United
10 Las Vegas, Nevada 748,210 American, Frontier, Spirit, United
Busiest International Routes to and from ORD (2015)[131]
Rank Airport Passengers Annual Change Carriers
1 London (Heathrow), United Kingdom 1,072,875 Increase04.2% American, British Airways, United, Virgin Atlantic
2 Toronto (Pearson), Canada 843,372 Increase04.4% Air Canada, American, United
3 Tokyo (Narita), Japan 712,579 Increase03.1% All Nippon, American, JAL, United
4 Frankfurt, Germany 622,743 Decrease04.5% Lufthansa, United
5 Mexico City, Mexico 493,747 Increase016.0% Aeroméxico, American, United, Volaris
6 Cancún, Mexico 449,880 Increase09.9% American, Frontier, United
7 Beijing (Capital), China 417,302 Increase015.1% American, Hainan, United
8 Montreal, Canada 401,706 Increase06.1% Air Canada, American, United
9 Hong Kong, Hong Kong 347,745 Decrease01.5% Cathay Pacific, United
10 Dublin, Ireland 335,585 Increase08.8% Aer Lingus, American, United
11 Paris (Charles de Gaulle), France 321,453 Decrease02.3% Air France, American, Delta, United
12 Shanghai (Pudong), China 321,195 Decrease01.7% American, United, China Eastern
13 Vancouver, Canada 277,531 Decrease09.1% Air Canada, United
14 Munich, Germany 274,530 Decrease07.7% Lufthansa, United
15 Seoul (Incheon), South Korea 254,337 Increase01.8% Asiana, Korean Air

Annual traffic[edit]

Traffic by calendar year[8]
Year Passenger volume Change over previous year Aircraft operations Cargo tonnage
2000 72,144,244 Decrease00.64% 908,989 1,640,524.1
2001 67,448,064 Decrease06.51% 911,917 1,413,834.4
2002 66,565,952 Decrease01.31% 922,817 1,436,385.7
2003 69,508,672 Increase04.40% 928,691 1,601,735.5
2004 75,533,822 Increase08.67% 992,427 1,685,808.0
2005 76,581,146 Increase01.38% 972,248 1,701,446.1
2006 76,282,212 Decrease00.30% 958,643 1,718,011.0
2007 76,182,025 Decrease00.15% 926,973 1,690,741.6
2008 70,819,015 Decrease07.03% 881,566 1,480,847.4
2009 64,397,782 Decrease09.07% 827,899 1,198,426.3
2010 67,026,191 Increase03.83% 882,617 1,577,047.8
2011 66,790,996 Decrease00.35% 878,798 1,505,217.6
2012 66,834,931 Increase00.04% 878,108 1,443,568.7
2013 66,909,638 Increase00.12% 883,287 1,434,377.1
2014 70,075,204 Increase04.45% 881,933 1,578,330.1
2015 76,949,336 Increase09.81% 875,136 1,742,500.8
2016 77,960,588 Increase01.31% 867,635 1,726,361.6


O'Hare, the airport's 'L' station, is a terminus for the Blue Line.


Chicago 'L'[edit]

The Blue Line provides 'L' service between O'Hare and Forest Park, departing from an underground station accessible by pedestrian tunnels from Terminals 1, 2, and 3. The station opened on September 3, 1984. Trains run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, providing connection via downtown Chicago to Forest Park.[132]


Commuter trains from the Metra North Central Service stop at the O'Hare Transfer station, which is connected to the Airport Transit System via a shuttle bus. Trains run only on weekdays.[133][134]

Airport Express[edit]

The City of Chicago is looking into a plan for an express train that would take tourists, locals, and other travelers from downtown Chicago to O'Hare International Airport in about 20 minutes, which is half the time it takes on the City's Blue Line. If an express train does get built, one-time tickets would likely cost around $30 to $35. Less expensive monthly passes and family discounts might also become available.[135] The City will look for a private company to cover construction costs and operate the system, but it's likely public money would go into building stations at the airport and downtown if the project moves ahead. The city says an engineering firm will spend the next 10 months evaluating potential routes, drafting designs and coming up with a construction timeline and cost estimate, then put it out for bid in 2017. In the early 1990s, the idea of a 20-minute O'Hare express train service has been proposed. Some plans included bypass tracks on the CTA Blue Line that run down the middle of the Kennedy Expressway as well as use of a Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way near the Kennedy. However no plans were ever materialized.[136]


Road vehicles enter and exit via I-190, which branches off I-90 (the Kennedy Expressway) leading to downtown Chicago. Cars may also access the airport locally from Mannheim Road, the airport's eastern boundary. Aside from cargo access on its south side, all airport traffic travels through the east side of the airport. Local residents sometimes refer to I-190 as "the world's busiest Cul-de-sac"[137] as a result of the one way access.


Taxi and Limo Services also provide transportation to/from Chicago O'Hare Airport. Fares vary based on traffic, average fares from O'Hare to downtown Chicago are $30–$40.[138]


Regional buses, taking passengers to Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin arrive and depart from the Bus / Shuttle Center.[139] It is located on the ground level of the Main Parking Garage, accessible by pedestrian tunnels from Terminals 1, 2, and 3.

Cellphone lot[edit]

A cellphone lot can be reached via the Car Rental return/Bessie Coleman Drive exit off the I-190. Signs direct drivers to the new cellphone lot. The lot is on the west side of Bessie Coleman Drive, across from car rentals, one half mile north of the exit. An information display provides aircraft arrival time updates.[140]

Car Rental[edit]

O'Hare International Airport offers a variety of options for vehicle rentals. Each rental car company offers free, 24 hour shuttle service. The shuttles pick up at the Arrivals curb front located on the lower level outside of Baggage Claim. Each terminal has designated areas on the outermost curb front where shuttles board.[141]

Modernization plan[edit]

O'Hare's high volume and crowded schedule can lead to long delays and cancellations that, due to the airport being a major hub, can have a ripple effect on air travel across North America. Official reports rank O'Hare as one of the least punctual airports in the United States based on percentage of delayed flights.[142] In 2004, United Airlines and American Airlines agreed to modify their flight schedules to help reduce congestion caused by clustered arrivals and departures. Because of the air traffic departing, arriving, and near the airport, air traffic controllers at O'Hare and its nearby facilities are among the leaders in the world in terms of number of controlled flights handled per hour.

City management has committed to a $6 billion capital investment plan to increase the airport's capacity by 60% and decrease delays by an estimated 79 percent.[143] This plan was approved by the FAA in October 2005 and will involve a reconfiguration of the airfield and addition of terminal space. The plan includes the addition of four runways, the lengthening of two existing runways, and the decommissioning of two existing runways in order to give the airfield six parallel runways in a configuration similar to that used at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, and other large modern hub airports. This plan was very controversial as the added improvements, at the time they were proposed, were expected to increase the airport's air traffic capacity only slightly, given existing FAA rules. Additionally, the southernmost new runway would require the city acquiring additional land, which was extremely controversial as residents did not want to move.

The Modernization Plan is now being implemented; an additional runway and Air Traffic Control Tower were commissioned on November 20, 2008. The new north runway, designated 9L/27R, initially served as a foul weather arrival runway, addressing one of O'Hare's primary causes of delays, but now serves as one of three runways that can be used simultaneously for landings. An extension of Runway 10L/28R (formerly 10/28, and prior to that 9R/27L) to 13,001 feet (3,963 m) was commissioned for use on September 25, 2008,[73] facilitating the shortening and eventual closure of the 13,000 feet (4,000 m) Runway 15/33 (former 14R/32L). At the same time, the FAA redesigned the departure routes for both O'Hare and Midway airports, increasing the number from three shared by both airports to five from each airport. With the new runway's opening, O'Hare's maximum aircraft arrival capacity increased from 96 planes per hour to 112 planes per hour; United Airlines's senior vice president of operations, Joseph Kolshak, told The Wall Street Journal that within a month of the runway's opening, "they were consistently hitting that."[144]

As part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's $7.3 billion infrastructure modernization plan, announced in March 2012, the airport would receive an additional $1.4 billion over three years to hasten the completion of the modernization effort.[145] The plan calls for accelerated completion of the fourth and final new runway as well as resumed negotiations with the airport's major airlines in an effort to boost O'Hare's overall capacity by 300,000 passengers per year by 2015.[146]

The modernization plan has required the acquisition of 126 acres (51 ha) of land in Des Plaines, Illinois; construction of runway 27R and the control tower cost $457 million and involved the rerouting of a creek and 14,000,000 cubic yards (11,000,000 m3) of fill to build up an embankment.."[144] 2,800 residents had to be relocated, as well as a cemetery with 900 known graves. The program ultimately is expected to expand the airport's capacity to over 3,800 operations per day, up from the present capacity of 2,700, and will vastly increase passenger throughput. It will also improve the ability of very large aircraft such as the Airbus A380 to operate.[147]

Flight caps in place since 2004 expired on October 31, 2008. American Airlines eliminated over 60 daily flights at O'Hare because of rising fuel prices. United announced similar cutbacks. Recent worldwide economic difficulties further complicate the forecasts for airport demand.[148]

After initially opposing the Modernization plan, DuPage County has endorsed the plan citing the creation of jobs, commercial development, and the ability of O'Hare to regain the status as busiest airport.[149]

  existing runway
  new runway
  removed runway

Resistance and alternatives[edit]

The neighboring communities of Bensenville and Elk Grove Village have been centers of resistance to the expansion plan, due to their proximity to the airport and because some of their residents and businesses would be required to relocate. Bensenville and Elk Grove Village formed the Suburban O'Hare Commission[150] to fight the expansion. So far, they have not had much success. The commission did receive a temporary injunction against portions of the city's expansion project; it was soon overturned, however. The Suburban O'Hare Commission has also been instrumental in pushing for a third regional airport in south suburban Peotone, which it claims would alleviate congestion at O'Hare. No airline has committed to the proposed airport, however, and planning efforts moved very slowly during 2007–08. In 2008, Elk Grove Village ended resistance. They received assurance that a proposed highway would not be built through their business park. In November 2009, Bensenville officially ended all resistance to the expansion, ceasing all legal challenges against the city of Chicago. They received a one-time $16-million payment from Chicago.[151] The city of Chicago also faced a five-year court battle to acquire a small, historical cemetery located within the space of their planned runway expansion. A settlement was finally reached in December 2012, between St. John United Church of Christ in Bensenville and the city of Chicago. The city agreed to pay the church $1.3 million for the 5-acre (2.0 ha) parcel on the west side of the airport, which included a 2-acre (0.81 ha) burial ground established by the church in 1849. All told, 1,494 bodies were disinterred from the St. Johannes Cemetery and reburied at various cemeteries throughout the region.[152]

In 1995, the Chicago/Gary Airport Compact was signed by the cities of Chicago and Gary, Indiana, creating a new administration for the Gary/Chicago International Airport just across the state line. While markedly smaller than the proposed Peotone site, this airport already has more land and a longer main runway than Midway Airport. Gary is also many miles closer than Peotone to downtown Chicago. In addition public transportation is already in place to the Loop via the South Shore Line. Indiana and the FAA have provided significant funding for a Gary runway expansion, currently under construction. The issue here is a large portion of the revenue that is generated would go to the state of Indiana as opposed to Chicago and the state of Illinois, the very entities the airport would mainly serve.[153]

Chicago Rockford International Airport (RFD) in Rockford, Illinois has also marketed itself as an alternative for congestion at O'Hare. It is at least a 1-1/2-hour trip to Rockford from the Chicago Loop. Currently there is no direct transportation service from downtown Chicago or O'Hare to Rockford airport, but airline service at the airport continues to grow. Larry Morrissey, the current mayor of Rockford, has pushed for a high-speed rail connection between the two airports to make the Rockford airport a more convenient alternative to O'Hare.

General Mitchell International Airport (MKE) in Milwaukee has consistently attempted to increase its usage by Chicago and Northern Illinois customers, especially with the opening of an Amtrak station directly west of Mitchell providing service from Chicago Union Station via the Hiawatha Service seven times per day; O'Hare and Mitchell have no direct rail link.

Accidents and incidents[edit]

The following is a list of crashes that happened on planes en route to/from O'Hare.[154]

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

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External links[edit]