O'Hare International Airport

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O'Hare International Airport
O'Hare Airport Logo.jpg
O'Hare Airport, satellite view, 2018.jpg
Airport typePublic
OwnerCity of Chicago
OperatorChicago Department of Aviation
LocationChicago, Illinois, U.S.
OpenedFebruary 1944 (1944-02)[1]
Hub for
Focus city for
Elevation AMSL668 ft / 204 m
Coordinates41°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
ORD is located in Chicago metropolitan area
Location of airport in Chicago
ORD is located in Illinois
ORD (Illinois)
ORD is located in the US
ORD (the US)
ORD is located in North America
ORD (North America)
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
9C/27C 11,245 3,428 Under Construction
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
Number Length Surface
ft m
H1 200 61 Concrete
Statistics (2017)
Passenger volume79,828,183
Aircraft movements867,049
Cargo (metric tonnes)1.9 million
Economic impact$39 billion
Sources: FAA[4] and airport's website.[5]

O'Hare International Airport (IATA: ORD, ICAO: KORD, FAA LID: ORD), typically referred to as O'Hare Airport, Chicago O'Hare, or simply O'Hare, is an international airport located on the far Northwest Side of Chicago, Illinois, 14 miles (23 km) northwest of the Loop business district, operated by the Chicago Department of Aviation[6] and covering 7,627 acres (3,087 ha).[4] O'Hare has non-stop flights to 217 destinations in North America, South America, Asia, Africa, Oceania and Europe.[7][8]

Established to be the successor to Chicago’s "busiest square mile in the world" Midway Airport, O'Hare began as an airfield serving a Douglas manufacturing plant for C-54 military transports during World War II. It was named for Edward "Butch" O'Hare, the U.S. Navy's first Medal of Honor recipient during that war.[9] Later, at the height of the Cold War, O'Hare served as an active fighter base for the Air Force.[10]

As the first major airport planned post-war, O’Hare's innovative design pioneered concepts such as concourses, direct highway access to the terminal, jet bridges, and underground refueling systems.[11] It became famous as the first World’s Busiest Airport of the jet age, holding that distinction from 1963 to 1998; today, it is the world's sixth-busiest airport, serving 79.8 million passengers in 2017.

O'Hare is unusual in that it serves a major hub for more than one of the three U.S. mainline carriers; it is United's largest hub in both passengers and flights, while it is American's third-largest hub.[12][13] It is also a focus city for Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines.[2][3]

While Terminals 2 and 3 remain of the original design, the airport has been engaged in a massive modernization of the airfield, and is beginning an expansion of passenger facilities that will remake it as North America’s first airport built around airline alliances.[14][15]


Establishment and defense efforts[edit]

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

Not long after the opening of Midway Airport in 1926, the City of Chicago realized that additional airport capacity would be needed in the future. The city government investigated various potential airport sites during the 1930s, but made little progress prior to America's entry into World War II.[9]

O'Hare's place in aviation began with a manufacturing plant for Douglas C-54s during WWII. The site was then known as Orchard Place, and had previously been a small German farming community. The 2,000,000 square feet (190,000 m2) plant, located in the northeast corner of what is now the airport property, needed easy access to the workforce of the nation's second-largest city, as well as its extensive railroad infrastructure and location far from enemy threat. Some 655 C-54s were built at the plant. The attached airfield, from which the completed planes were flown out, was known simply as Douglas Airport; initially, it had four 5,500-foot (1,700 m) runways.[9] Less known is the fact that it was the location of the Army Air Force’s 803rd Specialized Depot,[16] a unit charged with storing many captured enemy aircraft. A few representatives of this collection would eventually be transferred to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum.[17][18]

Douglas Company's contract ended in 1945 and, though consideration was given to building commercial aircraft at Orchard, the company ultimately chose to concentrate commercial production at its original headquarters in Santa Monica, CA.[9] With the departure of Douglas, the complex took the name of Orchard Field Airport, and was assigned the IATA code ORD.[19]

The United States Air Force used the field extensively during the Korean War, at which time there was still no scheduled commercial service at the airport. Although not its primary base in the area, the Air Force used O'Hare as an active fighter base; it was home to the 62nd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron flying F-86 Sabres from 1950 to 1959.[10] By 1960, the need for O'Hare as an active duty fighter base was diminishing, just as commercial business was picking up at the airport. The Air Force removed active-duty units from O'Hare and turned the station over to Continental Air Command, enabling them to base reserve and Air National Guard units there.[20] As a result of a 1993 agreement between the City and the Department of Defense, the reserve based was closed on April 1, 1997, ending its career as the home of the 928th Airlift Wing. At that time, the 357 acre (144 ha) site came under the ownership of the Chicago Department of Aviation.[21]

Commercial development[edit]

In 1945, Chicago mayor Edward Kelly established a formal board to choose the site of a new facility to meet future aviation demands. After considering various proposals, the board decided upon the Orchard Field site, and acquired most of the federal government property in March 1946. The military retained a relatively small parcel of property on the site, and the rights to use 25% of the airfield's operating capacity for free.[9]

Ralph H. Burke devised an airport master plan based on the pioneering idea of what he called "split finger terminals", allowing a terminal building to be attached to "airline wings" (concourses), each providing space for gates and planes. (Pre-war airport designs had favored ever-larger single terminals, exemplified by Berlin's Tempelhof.) Other innovations Burke brought to the O'Hare design included underground refueling, direct highway access to the front of terminals, and direct rail access, all of which are utilized at airports worldwide today. O'Hare was the site of the world's first jet bridge in 1958,[22][23] and successfully adapted slip form paving, developed for the nation's new Interstate highway system, for seamless concrete runways.

In 1949, the City renamed the facility O'Hare Field to honor Edward "Butch" O'Hare, the U.S. Navy's first flying ace and Medal of Honor recipient in World War II.[24] Its IATA code (ORD) remained unchanged, however, resulting in O'Hare's being one of the few IATA codes bearing no connection to the airport's name or metropolitan area.[19]

Scheduled passenger service began in 1955,[25] but growth was slow at first. Although Chicago had invested over $25 million in O'Hare, Midway remained the world's busiest airport and airlines were reluctant to move until highway access and other improvements were completed.[26] The April 1957 Official Airline Guide listed 36 weekday departures from the airport, while Midway coped with 414. Improvements began to attract the airlines: O'Hare's first dedicated international terminal opened in August 1958, and by April 1959 the airport had expanded to 7,200 acres (2,900 ha) with new hangars, terminals, parking and other facilities. The expressway link to downtown Chicago, now known as the Kennedy Expressway, was completed in 1960.[25] And new Terminals 2 and 3, designed by C. F. Murphy and Associates, opened on January 1, 1962.[27]

However, the biggest factor driving the airlines to O'Hare from Midway was the emergence of commercial jet transports; one-square-mile Midway did not have the space for the lengthy runways the new planes required.[28] While airlines had initially been reluctant to move to O'Hare, they were equally unwilling to split operations between the two airports: in July 1962 the last fixed-wing scheduled airline flight in Chicago moved from Midway to O'Hare. 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 Chicagoans proudly boasting that more people passed through O'Hare in 12 months than Ellis Island had processed in its entire existence. O'Hare remained the world's busiest airport until 1998.

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, replacing Midway.[29]

Post-deregulation developments and hubs[edit]

In the 1980s, after passage of US airline deregulation, the first major change at O'Hare occurred when TWA decamped Chicago for St. Louis as its main mid-continent hub.[30] Although TWA had a large hangar complex at O'Hare and had initiated non-stop service to Europe from Chicago using 707s in 1958, by the time of deregulation its operation was losing $25 million a year under intense competition from United and American.[31] Northwest likewise ceded O'Hare to the competition and shifted to a Minneapolis and Detroit-centered network by the early 1990s following its acquisition of Republic Airlines in 1986.[32] Delta maintained a Chicago hub for some time, even commissioning a new Concourse L in 1983.[33] Ultimately, Delta found competing from an inferior position at O'Hare too expensive and closed its Chicago hub in the 1990s, concentrating its upper Midwest operations at Cincinnati.

The dominant hubs established at O'Hare in the 1980s by United and American continue to operate today. United developed a new two-concourse Terminal 1 (dubbed "The Terminal for Tomorrow"), designed by Helmut Jahn. It was built between 1985 and 1987 on the site of the original Terminal 1; the structure, which includes 50 gates, is best known for its curved glass forms and the connecting underground passage between Concourses B and C.[34] American renovated and expanded its existing facilities in Terminal 3 from 1987 to 1990; these renovations feature a flag-lined entrance hall to Concourses H/K.[35][35]

The demolition of the original Terminal 1 in 1984 to make way for Jahn's design forced a "temporary" relocation of international flights into facilities called "Terminal 4" on the ground floor of the airport's central parking garage. International passengers were then bused to and from their aircraft. Relocation finally ended with the completion of the 21-gate International Terminal in 1993 (now called Terminal 5); it contains all customs facilities. Its location, on the site of the original cargo area and east of the terminal core, necessitated the construction of the Airport Transit System people-mover, which connected the terminal core with the new terminal as well as remote rental and parking lots.[33]

The large consolidating mergers in the airline industry from 2008-2014 left O'Hare's domestic operations simplified: the airport found itself primarily with United mainline in Terminal 1, United Express, Air Canada, and Delta in Terminal 2, and American and smaller carriers in Terminal 3.

Field modernization and reconfiguration[edit]

Reconstructed Brachiosaurus skeleton, formerly in the Field Museum, exhibited at the airport since 1999

O'Hare's high volume and crowded schedule, along with the vagaries of weather in the upper Midwest, frequently led to major delays; its hub status meant delays could affect airlines system-wide, causing issues for air travel across North America. Official reports at the end of the 1990s ranked O'Hare as one of the worst performing airports in the United States based on the percentage of delayed flights.[36] The situation was exacerbated by a practice known as banking, in which regional and mainline flights arrive within several narrow windows during each day (facilitating quick transfers but creating temporary congestion); the situation illustrated the bitter competition between United and American, who combined for over 86% of all operations but initially refused to cooperate to ease the situation. In 2004, facing the imposition of flight limits at O'Hare by the FAA, United and American agreed to modify their flight schedules to help reduce congestion caused by clustered arrivals and departures, mainly by adjusting the schedules of their regional carriers.[37]

While reducing the practice of banking helped, the reality was that the airfield had remained unchanged since the addition of its last new runway (4R/22L) in 1971.[38] The existing three pairs of runways at different angles were meant to allow takeoffs into the wind, but they came at a cost: the various intersecting runways were both dangerous and inefficient. In 2001, the Chicago Department of Aviation committed to a O'Hare Modernization Plan (OMP). Initially estimated at $6.6 billion, the OMP was to be paid by bonds issued against the increase in the passenger facility charge enacted that year as well as federal airport improvement funds.[39] The modernization plan was approved by the FAA in October 2005 and involved a complete reconfiguration of the airfield.

The OMP included the construction of four new runways, the lengthening of two existing runways, and the decommissioning of three older runways in order to give the airport six parallel runways and two crosswind runways in a configuration similar to that used at other large hub airports in Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Los Angeles.[14] This was a complete redesign of Burke's basic airfield structure; O'Hare had functioned in a circular manner, with the terminal complex in the center and runways effectively in a triangle around it.[9] Now, O'Hare would be organized into three sections, north to south: the North Airfield, containing three east-west and one crosswind runway and a new cargo area; the terminal complex and ground transportation access in the center; and the South Airfield, again containing three east-west and one crosswind runway and a large cargo area. Construction of the two new airfield layouts and the new cargo area, while the space-constrained airport continued full operations, presented significant time and capacity challenges. On the North airfield, new Runway 9L/27R opened in 2008. The South airfield saw the opening of Runway 10C/28C in 2013 and Runway 10R/28L in 2015.

The OMP was the subject of lengthy legal battles, both with suburbs who feared the new layout's noise implications as well as survivors of persons interred in a cemetery the city proposed to relocate; some of the cases were not resolved until 2011.[14] These, plus the reduction in traffic as a result of the 2008 financial crisis, delayed the OMP's completion; construction of the sixth and final parallel runway (9C/27C)[40] began in 2017. Its completion in 2020, along with an extension of runway 9R/27L to be completed in 2021, will conclude the OMP.[41]

Although construction continues, peak capacity (number of operations/hour) has already increased by 50% and total (all weather) system delays reduced by 57%;[42] after completion of the first two phases of the OMP, on-time arrivals improved from 67.6% to 80.8%.[43] By 2017, O'Hare ranked 14th in on-time performance of the top 30 U.S. airports.[44] Costs of the O'Hare Modernization Plan had risen, by 2015, beyond $8 billion.[45]


On March 28, 2018, the Chicago City Council gave approval to new leases with the airlines, which also contained an agreement to a Terminal Area Plan dubbed O'Hare 21.[15] It marks the first comprehensive redevelopment and expansion of the terminal core in O'Hare's history. The improvements are intended to enable same-terminal transfers between international and domestic flights, enable faster connections, improve facilities and technology for TSA and customs inspections, and modernize and expand landside amenities. A principal feature of the plan is the reorganization of the terminal core into an "alliance hub", the first in North America; airside connections and layout will be optimized around airline alliances. This will be made possible by the construction of the O’Hare Global Terminal where Terminal 2 currently stands. The Global Terminal and two new satellite concourses will allow for expansion for both American's and United's international operations as well as easy interchange with their various international partners through Oneworld (American) or Star Alliance (United), eliminating the need to exit the secured airside, ride the ATS, and re-clear security at Terminal 5. Delta and its SkyTeam partners, as well as non-affiliated carriers, will relocate to Terminal 5.

The plan is set to add over 3,000,000 square feet (280,000 m2) to the airport's terminals, a new customs processing center in the Global Terminal, 25% more ramp space at gates to accommodate larger aircraft, reconstruction of gates and concourses (new concourses will be a minimum of 120 feet (37 m) wide), and increase the gate count from 185 to 235.[46] Since construction cannot interfere with ongoing operations at the airport, it is scheduled to take place in stages, with the first step (scheduled to begin 2019) being to dig the tunnel that will connect the terminal core with two new satellite concourses.[47] Demolition of Terminal 2 and the subsequent construction of the Global Terminal can only proceed after the completion of the two new satellite concourses, which will provide the gates lost by the demolition of Terminal 2. In addition, construction continues on a nine-gate extension of Terminal 5, to open in 2021. A separate "stinger" extension of Concourse L, with five (eventually eight) new American regional gates, opened to service in April, 2018.[48]

By terms of the agreement between the airlines and the City, total costs of $11.1 billion for O'Hare 21 are to be borne by bonds issued by the City and retired through airport usage fees paid by the airlines. The O'Hare 21 project is scheduled for completion in 2028.



Runway layout at ORD

O'Hare features two sets of parallel runways, affording up to five simultaneous operations. The north side of the airfield has two parallel east-west runways (9L/27R and 9R/27L), with forthcoming 9C/27C scheduled for completion in 2020. The south side, where the O'Hare Modernization Program (OMP) is largely complete, has three parallel east-west runways (10L/28R, 10C/28C, and 10R/28L). In addition, there are two parallel crosswind runways oriented northeast/southwest (4R/22L, 4L/22R), one on each side of the airfield. The north crosswind runway, 4L/22R, actually intersects 9R/27L and forthcoming 9C/27C, limiting its use;[49] however, Runway 22L is often used for departures during "west flow" on the main runways. Each side of the airfield has its own ground control tower.

Original Runway 18/36 closed in 2003, and Runway 14L/32R closed in 2015. The last of the runways to close under the OMP, originally 14R/32L, was removed from service March 29, 2018, and the FAA Airport Diagram now designates the remaining sections[50] as taxiway SS.[51] Ironically, it had been the first new runway added by the city to the old Douglas Field layout and was lengthened and rebuilt with concrete in 1960 to became O'Hare's first intercontinental jet runway.[9]

O'Hare has a voluntary nighttime (2200–0700) noise abatement program.[52]

Ground transportation[edit]

Airport Transit System with Hilton Hotel in background

Passengers within the airport complex are normally able to travel via the free 2.5 mi (4 km)-long automated Airport Transit System (ATS), connecting all four terminals landside and the rental and remote parking lots. However, as part of a larger project, the ATS is undergoing a $310 million modernization and expansion that includes replacing the existing 15-car fleet with 36 new Bombardier vehicles,[53] upgrading the previous infrastructure, and extending the line 2,000 feet (610 m)[54] to the new Multi-Modal Facility across Mannheim Road. Currently, the modernization means the ATS is shut down from 0500 Monday through 0500 Saturday (with some holiday exceptions), with free shuttle buses providing service when the ATS is not running.[55] However, that limited service will end in January, 2019 and the ATS will not re-enter service until reconstruction is completed in the fall of 2019.

The new Multi-Modal Facility (MMF) opened in October, 2018 and is the home of all on-airport car rental firms as well as some extended parking. Rental customers now proceed from the terminal to the MMF via the ATS or shuttle bus, rather than by rental firms' shuttles.[56] After the completion of the ATS project in late 2019, it is anticipated that all shuttle bus service to the terminals will end, eliminating some 1.3 million bus trips yearly. In addition, the O'Hare Transfer station of Metra's North Central Service is located at the northeast corner of the MMF.

The CTA's Blue Line originates at O'Hare and provides direct service to the Dearborn Street subway in the Loop. Trains depart at intervals ranging from every 4 to 30 minutes, 24 hours a day.[57] The station is located on the lower level of the parking garage, and can be accessed directly from Terminals 1-3 via tunnel and from Terminal 5 via the ATS or shuttle bus.

Almost 23,000 parking spaces are available at O'Hare. A large multi-level garage containing short-term parking is located immediately opposite the terminal core, and there is a short-term lot immediately in front of Terminal 5. There are also several economy lots available; these are located farther away but are accessed from the terminals with free ATS or shuttle service. Rates at airport lots currently range from $10 to $40 a day.[58]

O'Hare is directly served by Interstate 190, which offers interchanges with Mannheim Road (U.S. 12 and 45), the Tri-State Tollway (Interstate 294), and Interstate 90. I-90 continues as the Kennedy Expressway into downtown Chicago and becomes the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway northwest to Rockford and the Wisconsin state line.


The Hilton Chicago O'Hare is between the terminal core and parking garage and is currently the only hotel on airport property. It is owned by the Chicago Department of Aviation and operated under an agreement with Hilton Hotels.

Other facilities[edit]

The USO offers two facilities: one open 24 hours and located before security in Terminal 2, and an additional site behind security in Terminal 3, open 06:00-22:30 daily. Each offers meals, refreshments, TV and quiet rooms, and internet access. Active duty military personnel and their families, as well as new recruits going to Recruit Training Command, are welcome.[59]

The large Postal Service processing facility at O'Hare is located at the far south end of the airfield along Irving Park Road. Being on secured airfield property, it is not open to the public. USPS drop locations are provided in Terminals 1, 3 and 5.


O'Hare has four numbered passenger terminals with nine lettered concourses and a total of 191 gates.

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 customs screening facilities. Several alliance partners, such as ANA, Iberia, Japan Airlines, and Lufthansa, have outbound international flights departing from Terminals 1 and 3. This requires that the aircraft arrive and discharge passengers at Terminal 5, after which the empty plane is towed to another terminal for boarding. This is to expedite connections for passengers transferring from domestic flights to those outbound international flights; while Terminals 1, 2, and 3 all 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, and then re-clear security before boarding.

Terminal 1[edit]

United Airlines Terminal 1, Concourse B
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 departures for Star Alliance partners Lufthansa (except for flight LH437 to Munich, which departs from Terminal 5; B16-B17) and All Nippon Airways (C10). Terminal 1 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 screenings 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 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. For premium international passengers, United's Polaris Lounge and the United Arrivals Suite are located near gate C18.[60]

Terminal 2[edit]

Terminal 2 houses Air Canada, Delta and Delta Connection domestic flights, and most United Express operations (although check-ins for United flights take place in Terminal 1). Terminal 2 has 43 gates on two concourses.

  • Concourse E – 17 gates
  • Concourse F – 24 gates

There is a United Club in Concourse F near gate F8, and a Delta Sky Club in Concourse E near gate E6.

Terminal 3[edit]

American Airlines Terminal 3 Main Hall

Terminal 3 houses all departing and domestic arriving American Airlines and American Eagle flights, as well as departures for Oneworld carriers Iberia and Japan Airlines, plus unaffiliated carriers. Terminal 3 currently has 80 gates on four concourses:

  • Concourse G – 24 gates
  • Concourse H – 18 gates
  • Concourse K – 16 gates
  • Concourse L – 22 gates

Concourses G and L house most American Eagle operated flights, while Concourses H and K house American's mainline operations. American's oneworld partners Japan Airlines and Iberia depart from K19 or K16. Concourse L is also used by non-affiliated airlines Air Choice One, Alaska Airlines, Cape Air, JetBlue, and Spirit.[61]

American Airlines has three Admirals Clubs in Terminal 3 and one Flagship Lounge. The main Club and Flagship Lounge is located in the crosswalk between concourses H and K at gates H6/K6; the other Admirals Clubs are located at gates L1 and G8.[62]

Terminal 5[edit]

Terminal 5 houses all of O'Hare's international arrivals (excluding flights with Air Canada, American and United from destinations with U.S. border preclearance). Other destinations with preclearance, including flights operated by Aer Lingus and Etihad Airways, arrive at Terminal 5 but are treated as domestic arrivals. 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.

In 2014, Terminal 5 underwent a $26 million amenities improvement project which belatedly adapted the terminal to a post-September 11 layout; the project added dining and retail post-security, including many locally-owned restaurants.[63]

In 2018, Frontier Airlines became the first domestic carrier to move operations to T5 as a part of the ongoing O'Hare 21 plan.[64]

Terminal 5 has 21 gates on one concourse, with nine additional gates scheduled to open in 2021.

  • Concourse M – 21 gates

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

Gate M11a is the only gate at O'Hare currently equipped to handle a Group VI or "superjumbo" aircraft such as the Airbus A380. In May 2018, British Airways began seasonal service with the A380 on one of its daily flights to Heathrow Airport, beginning the first scheduled A380 service (although Lufthansa and Emirates had landed A380s in demonstrations earlier).[65][66]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

Aer Lingus Dublin [67]
Aeroméxico Guadalajara, Mexico City [68]
Air Canada Toronto–Pearson
Seasonal: Montréal–Trudeau
Air Canada Express Montréal–Trudeau, Vancouver [69]
Air Choice One Burlington (IA), Ironwood, Mason City [70]
Air France Paris–Charles de Gaulle [71]
Air India Delhi [72]
Air New Zealand Auckland [73]
Alaska Airlines Anchorage, Los Angeles, Portland (OR), San Francisco, Seattle/Tacoma [74]
Alitalia Seasonal: Rome–Fiumicino [75]
All Nippon Airways Tokyo–Haneda, Tokyo–Narita [76]
American Airlines Albuquerque, Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Cancún, Charlotte, Columbus–Glenn (begins February 14, 2019), Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, El Paso, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Hartford, Houston–Intercontinental, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Las Vegas, London–Heathrow, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York–JFK, New York–LaGuardia, Newark, Orange County (CA), Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Pittsburgh, Portland (OR), Raleigh/Durham, Reno/Tahoe, Sacramento, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose (CA), San Juan, Seattle/Tacoma, Tampa, Tokyo–Narita, Tucson, Tulsa, Vancouver, Washington–National, West Palm Beach
Seasonal: Aruba (begins December 22, 2018),[77] Athens (begins May 3, 2019),[78] Barcelona, Bozeman, Colorado Springs, Cozumel, Detroit, Dublin, Eagle/Vail, Grand Cayman (begins December 22, 2018),[77] Guatemala City, Honolulu (resumes December 19, 2018),[77] Jackson Hole, Jacksonville (FL), Montego Bay, Nashville, Nassau (begins December 22, 2018),[77] New Orleans, Palm Springs, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Providenciales (begins December 22, 2018),[77] Puerto Vallarta, Punta Cana, Rome–Fiumicino, San José del Cabo, Venice
American Eagle Akron/Canton, Albany, Albuquerque, Appleton, Atlanta, Baltimore, Bangor, Birmingham (AL), Bismarck, Bloomington/Normal, Boise, Buffalo, Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, Champaign/Urbana, Charlottesville, Chattanooga, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Columbia (MO), Columbus–Glenn, Dayton, Des Moines, Detroit, Dubuque, El Paso, Erie (begins May 3, 2019),[80] Evansville, Fargo, Fayetteville/Bentonville, Flint, Fort Wayne, Grand Rapids, Green Bay, Greensboro, Greenville/Spartanburg, Harrisburg, Hartford, Hattiesburg/Laurel, Huntsville, Indianapolis, Jacksonville (FL), Kalamazoo, Kansas City, Knoxville, La Crosse, Lansing, Lexington, Little Rock, Louisville, Madison, Manhattan (KS), Marquette, Memphis, Meridian (MS), Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Moline/Quad Cities, Montréal–Trudeau, Mosinee, Nashville, New Orleans, Newark, Norfolk, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Peoria, Pittsburgh, Providence, Rapid City, Richmond, Rochester (MN), Rochester (NY), St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Sioux City, Sioux Falls, Springfield/Branson, Syracuse, Toledo, Toronto–Pearson, Traverse City, Tucson, Tulsa, Washington–National, Waterloo (IA), White Plains, Wichita, Wilkes-Barre
Seasonal: Aspen, Bozeman, Burlington (VT), Calgary, Charleston (SC), Denver, Durango (CO) (begins June 8, 2019),[81] Fort Walton Beach (begins March 9, 2019),[82] Hayden/Steamboat Springs, Kalispell (begins June 6, 2019),[81] Key West (begins February 16, 2019),[82] Manchester (NH) (begins June 6, 2019),[81] Missoula, Montrose, Myrtle Beach, Panama City (FL) (begins March 9, 2019),[82] Pensacola (FL) (begins March 9, 2019),[82] Portland (ME), Québec City (begins June 6, 2019),[83] Raleigh/Durham, Sarasota (begins December 19, 2018),[84] Savannah, Wilmington (NC)
Asiana Airlines Seoul–Incheon [85]
Austrian Airlines Vienna [86]
Avianca Bogotá [87]
Avianca Costa Rica Guatemala City [87]
Avianca El Salvador San Salvador [87]
Bahamasair Nassau [88]
British Airways London–Heathrow [89]
Cape Air Decatur [90]
Cathay Pacific Hong Kong [91]
Cayman Airways Seasonal: Grand Cayman [92]
China Eastern Airlines Shanghai–Pudong [93]
Copa Airlines Panama City [94]
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York–LaGuardia, Salt Lake City, Seattle/Tacoma [95]
Delta Connection Boston (begins September 8, 2019),[96] Cincinnati, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York–JFK, New York–LaGuardia, Raleigh/Durham (begins April 2, 2019),[97] Salt Lake City [95]
Emirates Dubai–International [98]
Ethiopian Airlines Addis Ababa1 [99]
Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi [100]
EVA Air Taipei–Taoyuan [101]
Finnair Seasonal: Helsinki [102]
Frontier Airlines Austin (resumes April 30, 2019), Cancún, Charleston (SC), Denver, Jacksonville (FL), Las Vegas, Orlando, Pensacola (FL), Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Punta Cana
Seasonal: Fort Myers, Harlingen, Long Island/Islip, Miami, Palm Springs, Puerto Vallarta, Syracuse, Tampa, Trenton
Hainan Airlines Beijing–Capital [104]
Iberia Madrid [105]
Icelandair Reykjavík–Keflavík [106]
Interjet Guadalajara, Mexico City [107]
Japan Airlines Tokyo–Narita [108]
JetBlue Airways Boston, Fort Lauderdale, New York–JFK [109]
KLM Amsterdam [110]
Korean Air Seoul–Incheon [111]
LOT Polish Airlines Budapest, Kraków, Warsaw–Chopin [112]
Lufthansa Frankfurt, Munich [113]
Norwegian Air Shuttle London–Gatwick [114]
Qatar Airways Doha [115]
Royal Jordanian Amman–Queen Alia [116]
Scandinavian Airlines Copenhagen, Stockholm–Arlanda [117]
Spirit Airlines Atlanta, Austin (begins February 14, 2019),[118] Baltimore, Cancún, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Houston–Intercontinental, Jacksonville (FL) (begins December 20, 2018),[119] Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York–LaGuardia, Orlando, San Diego, Tampa
Seasonal: Boston, Myrtle Beach, Oakland, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Portland (OR), Seattle/Tacoma
Swiss International Air Lines Zürich [121]
TAP Air Portugal Lisbon (begins June 1, 2019)[122] [123]
Turkish Airlines Istanbul–Atatürk (ends December 31, 2018), Istanbul–Havalimanı (begins January 1, 2019)[124] [125]
United Airlines Albany, Amsterdam, Aruba, Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Beijing–Capital, Belize City, Boston, Brussels, Buffalo, Calgary, Cancún, Charleston (SC), Charlotte, Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus–Glenn, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Des Moines, Detroit, Duluth, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Frankfurt, Grand Rapids, Harrisburg, Hartford, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Houston–Intercontinental, Indianapolis, Kahului, 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), Raleigh/Durham, Richmond, Rochester (NY), Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose (CA), San Juan, São Paulo–Guarulhos, Sarasota, Seattle/Tacoma, Shanghai–Pudong, Spokane, Syracuse, Tampa, Tokyo–Narita, Toronto–Pearson, Vancouver, Washington–Dulles, Washington–National, Wichita
Seasonal: Albuquerque, Anchorage, Bangor, Boise, Bozeman, Burlington (VT), Cozumel, Dublin, Edinburgh, Fairbanks, Grand Cayman, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Jackson Hole, Jacksonville (FL), Kalispell, Knoxville, Liberia, Missoula, Montego Bay, Montrose, Myrtle Beach, Nassau, Palm Springs, Portland (ME), Providence, Providenciales, Puerto Vallarta, Punta Cana, Reno/Tahoe, Rome–Fiumicino, Saint Lucia–Hewanorra, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, San José del Cabo, San José de Costa Rica, Savannah, Sioux Falls, Traverse City, Vail/Eagle, West Palm Beach
United Express Akron/Canton, Albany, Albuquerque, Allentown, Appleton, Asheville, Aspen, Atlanta, Austin, Birmingham (AL), Bismarck, Boise, Boston, Buffalo, Burlington (VT), Calgary, Cape Girardeau, Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, Charleston (SC), Charleston (WV), Charlotte, Charlottesville, Chattanooga, Cincinnati, Clarksburg (WV), Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Columbia (MO), Columbia (SC), Columbus–Glenn, Dallas/Fort Worth, Dayton, Des Moines, Detroit, Duluth, Eau Claire, El Paso, Erie, Evansville, Fargo, Fayetteville/Bentonville, Flint, Fort Wayne, Fresno, Grand Rapids, Green Bay, Greensboro, Greenville/Spartanburg, Harrisburg, Hartford, Houghton, Houston–Intercontinental, Huntsville, Indianapolis, Jackson (MS), Jackson Hole (WY), Jacksonville (FL), Kalamazoo, Kansas City, Lansing, León/Del Bajío, Lewisburg (WV), Lexington, Lincoln, Little Rock, Louisville, Madison, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Moline/Quad Cities, Monterrey, Montréal–Trudeau, Mosinee, Muskegon, Nashville, New Orleans, New York–LaGuardia, Newark, Norfolk, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Ottawa, Paducah, Pensacola, Peoria, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland (ME), Providence, Quincy, Raleigh/Durham, Rapid City, Richmond, Roanoke, Rochester (MN), Rochester (NY), St. Louis, Saginaw, Salina, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Sarasota, Savannah, Shenandoah Valley, Sioux Falls, South Bend, Springfield (IL), Springfield/Branson, State College, Syracuse, Toronto–Pearson, Traverse City, Tucson, Tulsa, Washington–Dulles, Washington–National, West Palm Beach, White Plains, Wichita, Wilkes–Barre/Scranton, Wilmington (NC), Winnipeg
Seasonal: Bangor, Billings, Bozeman, Brownsville, Cody, Great Falls, Gunnison/Crested Butte, Hayden/Steamboat Springs, Hilton Head (begins April 6, 2019),[127] Kalispell, Key West, Miami, Missoula, Montrose, Myrtle Beach, Nassau, Palm Springs, Québec City, Reno/Tahoe, Sun Valley
Vacation Express Seasonal Charter: Cancún, Cozumel, Freeport, Punta Cana [128]
Volaris Guadalajara, Mexico City [129]
WOW air Reykjavík–Keflavík [130]


  • ^1 : Ethiopian Airlines' flight from Addis Ababa to O'Hare stops at Dublin,[131] but the flight from O'Hare to Addis Ababa is nonstop.


There are two main cargo areas at O'Hare that have warehouse, build-up/tear-down and aircraft parking facilities.

The Cargo Area (now the South Cargo Area) was relocated in the 1980s from the airport's first air cargo facilities, which were located east of the terminal core, where Terminal 5 now stands. Many of the structures in the new Cargo Area then had to be rebuilt, again, to allow for the OMP and specifically runway 10R/28L; as a result, what is now called the South Cargo Area is located between 10R/28L and 10C/28C. These facilities were established mainly by traditional airline-based air cargo; Air France Cargo, American, JAL Cargo, KLM, Lufthansa Cargo, Northwest and United all built purpose-built, freestanding cargo facilities,[132] although most of them now lease the space out to dedicated cargo firms. In addition, the area contains two separate facilities for shipper FedEx and one for UPS.[132]

The Northeast Cargo Area (NEC) is a conversion of the former military base (the Douglas plant area) and is at the northeast corner of the airport property adjacent to Bessie Coleman Drive. It is a new facility designed to increase O'Hare's cargo capacity by 50%. Two buildings currently make up the NEC: a 540,000 square feet (50,000 m2) building completed in 2016,[133] and a 240,000 square feet (22,000 m2) building that was completed in 2017.[134] A third structure, scheduled for completion in 2019, will complete the NEC with another 150,000 square feet (14,000 m2) of warehouse space.[135]

The combined capabilities of the cargo areas provide 2,000,000 square feet (190,000 m2) of airside cargo space, on four ramps, with parking for 40 wide-body freighters, matched with over 2,000,000 square feet (190,000 m2) of landside warehousing capability. O'Hare shipped over 1.9 million tonnes of cargo in 2017, third among major airports in the U.S. The Department of Aviation estimates the value of the yearly shipments at $200 billion.[136]

AeroUnion Mexico City
AirBridgeCargo Airlines Amsterdam, Dallas/Fort Worth, Frankfurt, Houston–Intercontinental, Luxembourg, Moscow–Domodedovo [137]
Air China Cargo Anchorage, Beijing–Capital, 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, Hong Kong, New York–JFK, Portland (OR)
China Airlines Cargo Anchorage, Houston–Intercontinental, San Francisco, Seattle/Tacoma
China Cargo Airlines Anchorage, Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth
China Southern Cargo Shanghai–Pudong [138]
DHL Aviation Anchorage, Calgary, Cincinnati, Newark, New York–JFK
Emirates SkyCargo Maastricht [139]
EVA Air Cargo Anchorage, Dallas/Fort Worth, Taipei–Taoyuan
FedEx Express Fort Worth/Alliance, Greensboro, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis, Milwaukee, Newark, Oakland, Seattle/Tacoma, Pittsburgh
Korean Air Cargo Anchorage, Halifax, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle/Tacoma, Toronto–Pearson
LOT Polish Airlines Warsaw–Chopin
Lufthansa Cargo Anchorage, Atlanta, Frankfurt, Guadalajara, Los Angeles, Manchester (UK), Mexico City, New York–JFK [140]
Nippon Cargo Airlines Anchorage, Dallas/Fort Worth, Edmonton, Frankfurt–Hahn, Los Angeles, New York–JFK [141][142]
Qantas Freight Anchorage, Auckland, Chongqing, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Sydney [143][144][145][146]
Qatar Airways Cargo Amsterdam, Doha, Los Angeles, Milan–Malpensa [147][148][149]
Silk Way Airlines Baku [150]
Singapore Airlines Cargo Anchorage, Atlanta, Brussels, Chennai Airport, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Seattle/Tacoma [151]
Turkish Airlines Cargo Istanbul–Atatürk, Maastricht, Shannon, Toronto–Pearson [152][153]
UPS Airlines Cologne/Bonn, Columbus–Rickenbacker, Louisville, Miami, Philadelphia, Portland (OR)
Yangtze River Express Anchorage, Shanghai–Pudong


Top destinations[edit]

Busiest domestic routes from ORD
(September 2017 – August 2018)
Rank Airport Passengers Carriers
1 New York–LaGuardia, New York 1,631,650 American, Delta, Spirit, United
2 Los Angeles, California 1,433,050 Alaska, American, Spirit, United
3 San Francisco, California 1,145,170 Alaska, American, United
4 Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas 1,089,470 American, Spirit, United
5 Denver, Colorado 1,010,200 American, Frontier, Spirit, United
6 Boston, Massachusetts 982,410 American, JetBlue, Spirit, United
7 Atlanta, Georgia 886,890 American, Delta, Spirit, United
8 Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota 828,870 American, Delta, United
9 Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Arizona 821,410 American, Frontier, Spirit, United
10 Seattle/Tacoma, Washington 802,590 Alaska, American, Delta, Spirit, United
Busiest International Routes to and from ORD (2016)[155]
Rank Airport Passengers Annual Change Carriers
1 London–Heathrow 1,037,444 Increase00.8% American, British Airways, United
2 Toronto–Pearson 887,663 Increase05.3% Air Canada, American, United
3 Tokyo–Narita 685,067 Decrease03.9% All Nippon, American, JAL, United
4 Frankfurt 607,328 Decrease02.5% Lufthansa, United
5 Cancún 522,129 Increase016.1% American, Frontier, Spirit, United
6 Mexico City 488,015 Decrease01.2% Aeroméxico, Interjet, United, Volaris
7 Beijing–Capital 413,448 Decrease03.1% American, Hainan, United
8 Shanghai–Pudong 412,485 Increase028.4% American, United, China Eastern
9 Dublin 397,559 Increase018.5% Aer Lingus, American, United
10 Montréal–Trudeau 393,089 Decrease02.1% Air Canada, American, United
11 Hong Kong 331,944 Decrease04.5% Cathay Pacific, United
12 Vancouver 305,317 Increase010.0% Air Canada, American, United
13 Paris–Charles de Gaulle 304,342 Decrease05.3% Air France, American, Delta, United
14 Munich 297,918 Increase08.5% Lufthansa, United
15 Seoul–Incheon 276,795 Increase04.5% Asiana, Korean Air
16 Amsterdam 251,141 Increase00.1% KLM, United
17 Abu Dhabi 245,376 Increase08.6% Etihad Airways
18 Doha 224,654 Increase04.2% Qatar Airways
19 Istanbul–Atatürk 207,558 Increase05.2% Turkish Airlines
20 Dubai–International 204,539 Increase09.6% Emirates

Airline market share[edit]

Top Airlines at ORD
(September 2017 - August 2018)[156]
Rank Airline Passengers Percent of market share
1 United Airlines 20,901,000 31.59%
2 American Airlines 17,570,000 26.56%
3 SkyWest Airlines 7,141,000 10.79%
4 Envoy Air 5,191,000 7.85%
5 Spirit Airlines 3,066,000 4.63%

Annual traffic[edit]

Traffic by calendar year[157]
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
2017 79,828,183 Increase02.40% 867,049 1,950,137.2
2018 (Through July) 47,516,068 Increase04.92% 515,246 1,125,703.5

Environmental efforts[edit]

In 2011, O'Hare became the first major airport to build an apiary on its property; every summer, it hosts as many as 75 hives and a million bees. The bees are maintained by 30 to 40 ex-offenders with little to no work experience and few marketable skills from the North Lawndale community. They are taught beekeeping but also benefit from the bees' labor, turning it into bottled fresh honey, soaps, lip balms, candles and moisturizers marketed under the beelove product line; products are sold at stores and used by restaurants throughout both Chicago airports.[158] More than 500 persons have completed the program, transferring to jobs in manufacturing, food processing, customer service, and hospitality; the repeat-offender rate is reported to be less than 10%.[159]

O'Hare has used livestock, primarily goats, since 2013 to control vegetation in harder-to-reach areas or on steeper banks as along Willow-Higgins Creek on the airport property. In the summer of 2018, a mix of 30 goats, sheep, and a donkey named Jackson controlled buckthorn, garlic mustard, ragweed and various other invasive species.[160] The livestock assist not only with vegetation removal and control, but also reduce hiding and nesting places for birds that may interfere with safe aircraft operations, and all without food expense or environmental damage.[161]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

The following is a list of crashes or incidents that happened to planes at O'Hare, on approach, or just after takeoff from the airport.[162]

Popular culture[edit]

Arthur Hailey's novel Airport featured a thinly-disguised O'Hare as "Lincoln International Airport". The novel, adapted into a 1970 film starring Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Helen Hayes, Jacqueline Bisset, and George Kennedy, famously featured a stricken airliner seeking to return to a Chicago airport battling a fierce winter storm. Airport, along with other disaster films of the 1970s, provided the inspiration for the successful spoof Airplane! (1980).

Both Allegiant and the film adaptation set the Bureau of Genetic Welfare's headquarters at O'Hare. In the novel, it is stated that the agency stripped equipment from the city and refurbished the terminals into offices, laboratories, and other facilities. A hotel connected to the airport was converted into housing for the members of the bureau. Aircraft are stationed for surveillance and observation purposes. The film version has a futuristic facility built on the ruins of the old airport. Bullfrogs are launched from hangars mounted on the facility, and the rest of the airport's facilities are clearly seen to be heavily damaged or destroyed.

Well-known movies that have filmed scenes at O'Hare include Contagion, Couples Retreat, Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, The Jackal (1997), My Best Friend's Wedding, Risky Business, Sleepless in Seattle, U.S. Marshals and Wicker Park. The television series The Amazing Race and Prison Break have each filmed multiple scenes there.[173]

See also[edit]


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