Chicago O'Hare Airport Guide
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Your Complete Guide to Chicago O'Hare Airport

Chicago O’Hare International Airport is currently ranked as the third largest airport in the world, in terms of passenger traffic, and the second largest in the world for aircraft movements. It is also the fourth busiest international air gateway to the United States of America. It has been allocated the IATA code of ORD, and its ICAO code is listed as KORD. It is the primary airport serving the city of Chicago, Illinois, and can also be referred to as simply O’Hare. There are extensive facilities in the terminals for departing and arriving passengers, many airline companies offering flights and a wide range of ground transportation options available.

Chicago Airport is located approximately 17 miles northwest of the city Loop. It is in the state of Illinois, and in the Counties of Cook and DuPage, in the most north-western corner of Chicago. The airport’s physical address is at Bessie Coleman Drive, Illinois 60666, U.S.A, and it is located particularly nearby the areas of Schiller Park, Rosemont, Des Plaines, Bensenville and Franklin Park. A couple of major highways run to and nearby the airport complex as well. Passengers from the city of Chicago will travel on the I-90 and I-190, and from northern and southern areas, the I-294 is used. The I-90 provides access from western areas as well, and is also referred to as the Kennedy Expressway or as the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway.

The city of Chicago, served by O’Hare, is a very popular destination for tourists, as there are many attractions which appeal to all ages. The city is found alongside the large Michigan Lake, to the south of Milwaukee and Kenosha, to the northeast of St. Louis, Springfield and Champaign and to the northwest of Gary, Lafayette and Indianapolis. To the west of the city lies the areas of Rockford and Davenport, as well as Cedar Rapids. Madison and Fort Wayne are another two larger cities in the vicinity of Chicago. Many of the international passengers are tourists arriving to enjoy popular attractions, such as the miles of beaches alongside Lake Michigan, the famous Magnificent Mile, the Harold Washington Library, the Hancock Observatory and the Sears Tower. Children’s attractions are plentiful as well, and many areas of interest lie nearby, for example, the Brookfield Zoo, the Morton Arboretum and Bob-O-Link Meadow.

Chicago O’Hare was established around 1945 when a site was selected for a new main airport for the city. Runway facilities were built. In 1949 it was named after Lt. Cmdr. Edward H. ‘Butch’ O’Hare, a Medal of Honour recipient who died in World War II. In 1955 the site was officially opened, and handled over 170,000 passengers in its first year. Over the next few years the site was expanded, with additional terminals and cargo buildings. Soon the airport was the busiest in the world, with over ten million passengers per annum. The increase of passengers was partly due to the transfer of scheduled flights from the Chicago Midway. By 1965 passenger traffic doubled, and in 1968 the thirty million passenger mark has been broken.

In the 1970’s, the airport received its seventh runway, a 10-storey hotel by the name of the O’Hare Hilton, a six-level parking facility and the terminal complex was completed. By 1976 over forty million passengers were using Chicago airport, and it became the nation’s only dual-hub. Due to the huge volume of passengers at the location, expansions were inevitable. In 1983 a $2 billion Development Plan was arranged, that included new concourses and a new Terminal 1, the ‘Terminal for Tomorrow’, that was to be used by United Airlines. Over fifty million passengers passed through in 1986. Before the turn of the century O’Hare was handling over sixty million passengers per annum, and the ATS (Airport Transit System) was built. A new International Terminal 5 was opened as well.

Today, Chicago O’Hare Airport has four well equipped terminal buildings, referred to as Terminal 1, Terminal 2, Terminal 3 and Terminal 5. It has seven asphalt/concrete runways, of which 10/28 is the longest, with a length of 3,962 metres. In total, the terminals have nine lettered concourses, and 182 departure gates. Terminal 1 is used by United Airlines and some of its Star Alliance partners, other Star Alliance members and Lufthansa. It is a large terminal with 53 gates and Concourses B and C. However, the terminal lacks customs handling facilities, and therefore all international flights by these airline companies arrive at Terminal 5. There are four departure lounges in this terminal, including three United Clubs and a United International Lounge. Terminal 2 is used by US Airways, Delta Air Lines and United Express, and has two concourses (E and F) and 38 gates. There is a Delta SkyClub in Concourse E. Terminal 3 has four concourses, and is the hub facility for American Airlines. Oneworld alliance carriers and unaffiliated domestic low-cost carriers operate from Terminal 3 as well. There are several lounges in this terminal, including two American Airline Admirals Clubs.

Terminal 5 is the international terminal with one concourse and a large number of lounges, including the British Airways Lounge, Korean Air Lounge, Air France Lounge, Aer Lingus Gold Circle Club and the Swiss Lounge. All international flights arrive here, besides those with U.S. border preclearance facilities, such as Toronto, Halifax, Edmonton and Calgary in Canada. The terminal is also home to most non-U.S. carriers and a few domestic low-cost carriers. All terminals have a wide variety of facilities, including shops and restaurants, banking and currency exchange services and power points, and all parts of the buildings are accessible to disabled passengers. Special facilities include the University of Illinois (UIC) Medical Centre and the United Services Organizations, providing a variety of services to active military personnel and their dependents. O'Hare Airport volunteer ambassadors are present as well, to provide assistance to all passengers.

The Airports' terminals are linked by the ATS, or Airport Transit System. The train is automated, and is an efficient people mover system travelling a distance of 2.7 miles. It is a free and quick way to reach Terminal 5 from Terminals 1, 2 and 3, and the remote parking areas of the complex. Parking facilities at O’Hare include Economy lots which are affordable for long-term parking, the main parking garage for convenient access to Terminals 1, 2 and 3 and the international parking area of Terminal 5. Valet parking options are available as well, and a Cell Phone Parking Lot is convenient for motorists waiting for arriving passengers.

The airport has a train station, known as the O’Hare Train Station, from where passengers can take the ‘L’ CTA Blue Line trains to various locations in downtown Chicago. There are also buses, for transport into the city, regional buses serving the surrounding areas and shuttles take passengers to and from the Midway International. Taxi ranks for arriving passengers are available outside each terminal. A taxi to Chicago will cost between $30.00 and $40.00.

Chicago O’Hare is a hub for the airline companies of United Airlines and American Airlines, and is the only dual-hub in the United States. United Airlines carries over 45% of the airport’s passengers, while approximately 37% travel on flights by American Airlines. Additional airline carriers of importance at O’Hare include Aer Lingus, Air France, Air Canada, WestJet, KLM Royal Dutch, Lufthansa, British Airways, SWISS, Korean Air, Jet Blue, Iberia Airlines, American Eagle, Cathay Pacific Airways, Delta Air Lines, Turkish Airlines and SkyWest Airlines. The most popular international destinations include London, Frankfurt, Toronto, Tokyo, Cancun, Paris, Montreal, Munich, Mexico City and Shanghai, and the busiest domestic routes include San Francisco, Dallas, Boston, Minneapolis, Washington, Atlanta, Denver and Philadelphia.

The airport is owned by the city of Chicago, and is managed by the Chicago Airport System. Although O’Hare has been voted as the best airport in North America for ten consecutive years by two independent sources, passengers can experience long delays and the cancellation of flights, due to the large number of passengers traveling on a daily basis. Since the airport is a major hub, air travel across North America can be affected by such inefficiency. In order to increase the site's capacity by 60%, and to decrease delays by 79%, the O’Hare Modernization Program is in place. It is one of the largest construction projects in the country, and is managed by the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA). In general, the plan includes the construction of a third runway, an additional control tower and additional space within the terminals. The lengthening of existing runways will take place as well. The O’Hare Modernization Program should enable the airport to comfortably support its growing passenger numbers.

Chicago O’Hare International Airport information is available online, and general enquiries can be made to the customer service centre at 1-773-686-2200. An email address is Aviation@FlyChicago.com.