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1.67 million passengers expected to travel through Chicago’s airports over Memorial Day Weekend

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Kick-Off to Bustling Summer Travel Season Will Be 8.6% Busier Than 2023, Including a 10% Spike at O’Hare

The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) announced today that O’Hare and Midway International Airports are prepared to welcome more than 1.67 million passengers between Thursday, May 23, and Tuesday, May 28, for the historically busy Memorial Day holiday travel period — an 8.6% increase over the same period last year — based on projections from air carriers.

O’Hare is expected to see more than 1.38 million passengers over the long holiday weekend, nearly 10% more than in 2023. At Midway, carriers project more than 294,000 passengers, 3.1% more than last year. Friday, May 24 is expected to be the busiest travel day at both airports.

“We are thrilled to kick off another beautiful summer in the greatest freaking city in the world by welcoming more than 1.6 million people to our city’s world-class airports,” Mayor Brandon Johnson said. “I urge visitors to explore Chicago’s vibrant and diverse neighborhoods, check out a local street festival, or sample the amazing cuisine that makes us a global culinary destination and attracts travelers from all over the world.”

“With exciting new air service options, new and expanded concessions offerings, and historic investments underway to modernize our terminal facilities, Chicago’s airports are prepared to meet this increased passenger demand at O’Hare and Midway,” CDA Commissioner Jamie L. Rhee said. “This summer travel season is set to be our busiest in years, and O’Hare and Midway are ready to welcome travelers from all over the globe to Chicago. I also thank all of the CDA’s federal, state, local and airline partners working tirelessly this weekend and throughout the summer to ensure a seamless travel experience for our customers.”

Residents and visitors planning to travel through Chicago’s airports over the Memorial Day weekend are reminded of the following tips:

Prevent Traffic Congestion

Traffic back-ups at Chicago’s airports are common on busy travel days, and Chicagoland residents on their way to each airport are asked to be mindful of the following tips to minimize congestion:

  • Consider taking public transit to avoid curbside crowds. The CTA Blue Line provides 24/7 service to O’Hare, and the CTA Orange Line serves Midway between 4 a.m. and 1 a.m. Additionally, Metra’s North Central Service offers weekday service from downtown Chicago’s Union Station to the O’Hare transfer station next to the Multi-Modal Facility (MMF), with access to the Airport Transit System (ATS).
  • Kiss n’ Fly drop-offs are provided at both airports. At Midway, drivers can drop off passengers at West 59th Street and South Kilpatrick Avenue, which is just a short walk into the terminals. At O’Hare, passengers can be dropped off at the Multi-Modal Facility, 10255 W. Zemke Blvd., and board the ATS for a short ride to Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 5.
  • Cell Phone Lots are completely free and available at both airports for locals picking up arriving passengers. Simply wait in these convenient parking lots until arriving passenger call to say they are ready for pickup. The O’Hare Cell Phone Lot is at 560 N. Bessie Coleman Drive, and the Midway Cell Phone Lot is located on the southeast corner of West 61st Street and South Cicero Avenue.

Check Parking Updates Before You Leave
Economy lots at O’Hare often reach capacity during busy holiday periods. Passengers planning to park at O’Hare are encouraged to check the status of available parking before leaving for O’Hare at flychicago.com/ORDParking. Reserved parking is also available on a limited basis for certain O’Hare lots, visit FlyChicago.com for more information. Parking lot status, pricing and advance reservations for Midway’s lots and garages can also be found at FlyChicago.com

Arrive Early
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may experience longer than usual wait times at security checkpoints given the influx of travelers. Real-time updates for O’Hare TSA checkpoints are available at FlyChicago.com

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

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

Terminal Investments Underway

Mayor Brandon Johnson joined key federal and airline partners at O’Hare last month for a celebratory groundbreaking for the $300 million ElevateT3 project, a massive investment in the airport’s ageing terminal facilities supported by $90 million in grant funding from President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).

ElevateT3 is a key pillar of O’Hare 21, Chicago’s vision to transform the country’s best-connected airport into an efficient and accessible international gateway for the 21st century. The project will upgrade customer amenities, improve security screening and airport operations, and expand accessibility for passengers with disabilities at Terminal 3. Passenger disruptions related to this project over Memorial Day weekend are expected to be minimal as preparation work is still underway.

New Air Service

United Airlines will launch daily, summer seasonal service today from O’Hare to Chicago’s Sister City of Athens, Greece. This will be the carrier’s first-time offering flights to Athens from Chicago. United plans to offer more than 175 routes to O’Hare this summer, more than any other airline —including 15 European routes, compared to nine in the summer of 2019.  New services to Winnipeg and Quebec City, Canada will also begin today and service to the new airport in Tulum, Mexico will increase to daily.

American Airlines will begin daily summer seasonal service to Venice, Italy on June 5, 2024, which will be a restoration of non-stop service the carrier last offered in summer 2019. Other notable international services include WestJet increasing frequencies on its summer seasonal route from O’Hare to Calgary to daily beginning on June 18, 2024, and Avianca resorting service from O’Hare to Guatemala City thrice weekly beginning between June 2, 2024.

Ultra low-cost carriers Spirit and Frontier continue to add new destinations from O’Hare and Midway this summer. Spirit will serve 19 destinations from O’Hare in July 2024, increasing from 12 in July 2023.  Frontier will offer non-stop service to 19 destinations from O’Hare and Midway in July 2024, compared with 14 in July 2023.

Spotlighting Accessibility

In commemoration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day on May 16, the CDA announced its partnership with the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program.

The program raises awareness of hidden disabilities and creates more accessible and inclusive spaces through the use of a Sunflower symbol. More than 1 billion people globally experience some form of disability and not all of those conditions are visible. With nearly 100 million passengers traveling through Chicago’s airports each year, this new initiative allows the City of Chicago to increase accessibility for all travelers at its airports.

New USO Center Opens At Midway for Service Members

The CDA joined USO staff and military service members earlier this year to unveil the upgraded USO Midway Center in Midway’s Concourse C. The completed renovations include fresh furniture, updated flooring, new appliances and revamped interiors, positioning the Center to serve as a home away from home for traveling service members and their families for decades to come.

The Center operates daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and provides unique amenities to those who serve, including a stocked kitchenette, a computer, printers, free Wi-Fi access, books, magazines and a lounge to watch TV and movies or play video games. The renovations expanded the center’s capacity by 30%.

The USO also operates a second Center at Midway in the baggage claim area, serving sailors from Naval Station Great Lakes en route to duty assignments around the world. Additionally, the USO operates centers in Terminals 2 and 3 at O’Hare, serving hundreds of thousands of military travelers annually.​

General Information
Travelers bound for Chicago’s airports can make the most informed decisions about how to access any of the above airport services by visiting FlyChicago.com. The website contains real-time information about flights, parking updates, taxicab wait times, available concession businesses, and other special alerts for the traveling public. The update “My Flight” search page shows specific flight updates, along with amenities located near the flight gate and other targeted travel resources.

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