O’Hare, Midway Poised to Welcome 2.9 Million Travelers Over Busy Holiday Travel Period

Travelers Should Arrive Early, Allow Extra Travel Time Over Holiday Week, Historically One of Busiest Travel Periods Each Year 

The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) is prepared to welcome approximately 2.9 million travelers to O’Hare and Midway International Airports between Wednesday, Dec. 21 and Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, for the historically busy Christmas and New Year’s travel period, based on projections from airline carriers.

 “O’Hare and Midway International Airports play a critical role in connecting Americans across the country with their families during the bustling holiday season,” CDA Commissioner Jamie L. Rhee said. “As always, our highest priority is to create a safe, secure and efficient airport environment for our travelers and employees alike.”

Compared to the same holiday travel period last year, O’Hare is expected to see a passenger increase of 4.7%, and current projections from the airlines show that Thursday, Dec. 22 will be the busiest day of travel. Airlines project that Midway will experience an increase in passengers of approximately 26% compared to the same period in 2021, with the busiest day expected to be Tuesday, Dec. 27.

Earlier this month, Global Traveler (GT) magazine named O’Hare the “Best Airport in North America” for the 19th consecutive year and “Best Airport Dining” for the third consecutive year. Midway International Airport was also named “Best Family-Friendly Domestic Airport” this year by Wherever Family, a division of Global Traveler.

The awards round out a strong year of recognition for Chicago’s airports. O’Hare was also named the most connected “megahub” airport in the world this September by aviation research firm OAG. This is O’Hare’s first return to the top spot in OAG’s rankings since 2016. That same month, the Illuminating Engineering Society Chicago Section recognized the lighting on Midway’s Security Checkpoint Expansion with an Award of Merit at its 2022 Illumination Awards gala. The expansion, completed during the COVID-19 pandemic, doubled passenger throughput, from approximately 2,500 passengers per hour to more than 5,000 passengers per hour.

Visitors and residents traveling through O’Hare and Midway International Airports over the holidays should be mindful of the following tips:

Winter Weather Preparedness 

Current forecasts show winter weather conditions on both Thursday, Dec. 22 and Friday, Dec. 23. In partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the airlines, the CDA is prepared to maintain operations and keep passengers safe.

More than 700 CDA employees are ready to support 24/7 operations, using more than 350 pieces of equipment and more than 400,000 gallons of pavement de-icer to keep runways and taxiways clear and safe at both airports. The expanded Central Deicing Facility at O’Hare, completed in 2021, also streamlines operations and enhances safety at one of the world’s busiest cold weather airports.

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

At O’Hare, a new CLEAR Lane and enrollment are now 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.

Prevent Traffic CongestionTraffic back-ups into both O’Hare and Midway are common around the holiday season, and Chicagoans traveling to either airport for travel or pick-ups are reminded of the following tips to help keep congestion to a minimum throughout the week:

  • Consider taking the CTA Blue Line to O’Hare and the CTA Orange Line to Midway to avoid the curbside crowds. 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 located at both airports. At Midway, passengers can be dropped off at West 59th Street and South Kilpatrick Avenue and take 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. Avoid circling the curb zone area and wait in the 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 at West 61st Street and South Cicero Avenue. 

Check Parking Updates Before You LeaveEconomy 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 are also available on FlyChicago.com.

Terminal 5 Parking Lot DEarlier this month, capacity in Terminal 5’s Parking Lot D was reduced as construction crews continue work on a new, six-story parking garage that will serve the expanded terminal for domestic and international service. The existing pedestrian bridge connecting Lot D to Terminal 5 is now closed, and a temporary pedestrian walkway has been opened to connect pedestrians to the terminal.


Passengers traveling through Terminal 5, as well as locals picking up arriving passengers, should allow for extra time when parking, and consider alternatives to parking in Lot D.

Other parking lots at O’Hare remain open, such as Economy Lot F in the airport’s MMF, conveniently located just minutes from Terminal 5 on the ATS. Economy Parking Lot G is also being expanded to accommodate increased demand, and overflow parking will be opened as needed.


New Amenities for Families on the GoSen. Tammy Duckworth visited O’Hare last week to tour one of the new Mamava portable lactation pods throughout the airport to supplement the six Mother’s Rooms. The pods are freestanding spaces intentionally designed with easy-to-clean surfaces and app-enabled access to provide a comfortable and private option to breastfeed or pump.


Two new Mamava portable lactation pods were installed at O’Hare this year, bringing the total to 10, with three pods in Terminal 1, two in Terminal 2 and five in Terminal 3. There is also one Mamava pod and one Mother’s Room at Midway.


Earlier this year, contactless vending machines from Oops! Diapers 2Go also opened in Terminals 1, 2, and 3 at O’Hare, providing a 24-hour option for traveling families to purchase diapers, wipes, pacifiers, formula, bottles, snacks and children’s activity kits.


Holiday Specials, Entertainment and New Concessions at the Airports 

Both O’Hare and Midway are hosting a series of concerts and other live entertainment in the terminals for travelers over the holidays. Highlights include performances by the Merry Masked Carolers and appearances from Buddy the Elf and Mr. and Mrs. Claus themselves. See FlyChicago.com for the full event schedules for O’Hare and Midway.

Travelers who need last-minute gift ideas can consult the Top Chicago Gifts guide for a wide selection of items available at O’Hare’s retailers and get a free tote bag with any three-item purchase at participating shops.

Passengers, employees, and flight crews who need a break during the often hectic holiday season can relax with three new Body Charger foot massage stations in O’Hare’s Terminal 3. The stations provide a “shoes-on foot massage” with access to wireless charging for electronic devices and built-in trays for food, drink or work purposes. The new Body Charger stations can be found near Gates K8, K15 and H1 and supplement the existing stations at Gate K1 and in Terminal 1 near Gate B11.

Additionally, Evolve by Hudson, a new retailer that combines the accessibility of travel convenience with a specialty retail experience tailored to the local market, is scheduled to open this week near Gate M14 in O’Hare’s Terminal 5.

New Air ServiceSeveral air carriers started new or expanded service at O’Hare this month:

  • Viva Aerobus started twice-weekly seasonal service from O’Hare to Zacatecas, Mexico (ZCL) on Saturday, Dec. 10.
  • American Airlines launched weekly seasonal service on Saturday, Dec. 17 from O’Hare to Cozumel, Mexico (CZM); Nassau, Bahamas (NAS); and Providenciales, Caicos Islands (PLS).
  • United Airlines began weekly seasonal service on Saturday, Dec. 17 from O’Hare to Belize City, Belize (TZA); San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO); and St. Lucia (UVF).
  • Japan Airlines increased flights to three times a week starting Friday, Dec. 2 for service from O’Hare to Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT).
  • Ethiopian Airlines increased flights to five times a week starting Monday, Dec. 12 for service from O’Hare to Addis Ababa (ADD).
  • EVA Airways increased flights to five times a week starting Sunday, Dec. 18 for service from O’Hare to Taipei (TPE).

‘American Heroes’ Exhibit at Midway 

To commemorate Veterans Day last month, the CDA and Belmont Village Senior Living hosted a grand opening for a new gallery exhibit titled “American Heroes: Portraits of Service” at Midway, located in the pedestrian walkway between the CTA Orange Line station and the concourses.

Organized by the CDA in partnership with Belmont Village Senior Living and co-sponsored by Harrison Street, the specially-curated exhibit features portraits of 65 senior veterans from across the country who served America during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, captured by nationally recognized photographer Thomas Sanders.

REAL ID Deadline Extended 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced an extension earlier this month to the deadline for requiring REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses or identification cards to pass through TSA checkpoints. The deadline has been pushed back two years, from May 2023 to May 2025, after which point travelers will need a REAL ID or a U.S. passport to board domestic flights.

Travel SafelyChicago is currently at a “Medium” risk level for COVID-19, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). While there are no current mandates, the CDPH strongly recommends wearing a mask in public indoor spaces. Current federal guidance also recommends all employees and travelers ages 2 and up wear a well-fitting mask or respirator while at indoor transportation facilities, including airports. The CDA reminds all passengers and staff to be courteous and respectful to each other.

Access to airport terminals at both O’Hare and Midway is restricted at all times to ticketed passengers, those assisting passengers, badged employees, and others with legitimate airport business.


General InformationTravelers 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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