Facts you need to know about Chicago airports

ohare midway

Chicago is known for many many things and among them for being one of the biggest airport hubs in the United States, or to be more precise, the 3rd biggest, just behind Atlanta and Los Angeles. Hubs represent the center of activity or a focal point, and airports are exactly that. They are the thing that connects people, countries, businesses and cultures.


Importance of airports in modern society

Since the first plane flew, everyone recognized the importance of air travel and its benefits. Even though they are in their essence, flying metal whales in the sky, airplanes shrunk the planet and allowed people to go from place to place in a matter of hours, not weeks or months.

Besides making our travel time shorter, airplanes and airports had a big impact on the economic development of a region.  As they connect people and places, airports connect economies on a global level, encouraging trade and tourism sectors.
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The development process of a region that gets an airport is immediately boosted because it increases traffic, provides employment and overall economic improvement for the community.

In Chicago, there are three commercial airports – Midway, O’Hare, and Gary. O’Hare is considered to be the one with the most traffic followed by Midway, and Gary, which has a remote location in comparison to the other two, the least traffic.

Chicago Midway International Airport

Just 10 miles away, this airport is the closest to downtown Chicago or the financial district known as “The Loop,” and the second busiest airport in the state. Located in the south-western part of the city, Midway airport is the oldest of Chicago’s three commercial airports.

Built-in 1927, under the name Municipal airport, Midway was the pioneer of air transport in Chicago city. It got its current name in 1949, in commemoration of the Midway battle that took place in 1942 during World War II.

In 1955, O’Hare airport officially started working, creating problems and competition for Midway. Still, as O’Hare grew in the decades to come, Midway gave up the title of the biggest airport in Chicago and made a place for itself by offering continuous domestic flights for cost-conscious customers. In other words, it was simply cheaper, and it attracted low-cost domestic airlines. In the early 1990s,

Chicago’s CTA introduces the orange rail line on the “L” that gets you to and from the airport quickly and at a high price, helping Midway stay accessible and relevant. Booking a limo to Midway or using taxi/uber services are great options if you’re not a fan of public transport.

Chicago’s Department of Aviation started upgrading and expanding Midway airport in mid-2017, and that modernization project worth $400 million, is scheduled to last until 2020. 

It includes improvements to common areas and security checkpoints that will enhance passenger flow from 2.500 to 5.000 people per hour. Parking facilities are getting upgraded, too, with 1.500 new parking spots.

Another thing is the additions to the food court and shopping area, with 50 new brands for passengers to visit and use. This expansion is expected to create 1.600 job opportunities.

O’Hare International Airport

O’Hare is the 3rd most significant airport in the USA. The location for the airport was picked in 1945 – Orchard Place, but back then, it was occupied by a military aircraft assembly factory owned by Douglas Aircraft Company.

When the factory relocated, the airport continued to develop and grow under the name “Orchard Field Airport” – creating the ORD abbreviation. Four years later, the airport changed its name in honor of Edward O’Hare, a Medal of Honor recipient in World War II.

Even after that, O’Hare airport kept the airline code ORD, used to this day. It opened for traffic in 1955 and served almost 177.000 passengers in the first year.

In connection to the three-letter abbreviation ORD, the motto of O’Hare airport is “Beyond Ordinary,” and that statement is quite true.

Being as big as it is, it’s understandably challenging to handle. It has four terminals (1, 2, 3, and 5 because the number 4 now serves as a bus depot), the first three are connected while the fifth is entirely separate.

The fifth terminal is intended for the landing of all incoming international flights with a rigorous and detailed US border control in place.

Located around 20 miles from downtown, accessibility to O’Hare is made easy with Chicago’s public transport, such as trains and buses.

Taking the blue line on the “L” would be the most “price-friendly” option, and booking a limo service to Ohare the most “user-friendly” one. The advantage you get with reserving a limo is that you don’t have to go to any station with your entire luggage, just to the front door.

It is also much more convenient than a bus or train if a passenger deals with some disability.

O’Hare International Airport may not be the biggest but is without a doubt nation’s best-connected airport hub, topping even the Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta Airport with 903.747 flights last year. Amazing.

Concerning renovations on O’Hare, there are significant investments being made. A few years ago, a project “O’Hare 21” begun, and many changes are underway.

A new car rental center and parking lot were officially opened. All terminals are to be substantially expanded and connected via an underground walkway. Just on the terminal, five reconstructions include an additional 350.000 square feet, ten gates, and six lanes for passenger processing.

A new, state-of-the-art baggage system and self-service technologies for check-ins. This project includes a lot more upgrades, it is scheduled to finish by the year 2028, and the total sum of investments is estimated at $8.7 billion. Yes, with a B.


Nowadays, big airport hubs structurally resemble a city. Like cities, they have their infrastructures, traffic on and off the ground, shopping, and leisure areas.

Airports have designated departments for finance, administration, and legal matters, public relations, police, and fire department.

They have evolved so much throughout the years, and it’s hard to imagine that once upon a time, airplanes took off from and landed on grass and dirt fields, with pilots guiding themselves by the favorable direction of the wind. I guess time flies when you’re having fun.

Wanna find out more about Chicago?

Check out our 7 Must See Sites In Chicago & 6 Ways To Get Around Chicago

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