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Chicago’s airports prepared to welcome surge of passengers over Thanksgiving holiday weekend

Sunday, Nov. 26 is projected to be the busiest day, with nearly 300,000 passengers expected between O’Hare and Midway International Airports 

The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) is prepared to welcome more than 1.65 million passengers at O’Hare and Midway International Airports between Tuesday, Nov. 21 and Monday, Nov. 27 for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which is historically one of the busiest travel periods of the year, based on projections from air carriers. 

Compared to last year’s Thanksgiving holiday travel period, O’Hare is expected to see a passenger increase of 1.5%, and airline projections show that Sunday, Nov. 26 will be the busiest travel day, with more than 226,000 passengers. Airlines project that passenger levels at Midway will increase by nearly 1% over last year, with the busiest day expected to also be Sunday, Nov. 26, with more than 59,000 passengers. 

“O’Hare and Midway International Airports play a vital role in allowing family, friends, and loved ones from across our nation and all over the world to gather at Thanksgiving dinner tables this week,” CDA Commissioner Jamie L. Rhee said. “As the holiday travel season gets underway, the CDA has no higher priority than providing a safe and secure environment for our passengers, employees and the entire aviation community, and we thank our valued airline, federal and law enforcement partners for their extraordinary partnership in this work.” 

Those holiday travelers will find a variety of live entertainment options and new airport artwork to entertain and engage them while passing through Chicago’s airports. 

Earlier this month, the CDA announced the latest slate of performances in its “Chi on the Fly” entertainment series at O’Hare and Midway, which kicked off on Nov. 16. See the full lineup on 

Travelers at O’Hare’s Terminal 5 will also get the chance to take in a newly-installed collection of works by more than 20 Chicago artists. The $3.5 million public art commission, a collaboration between the CDA and Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), is the City’s largest single acquisition of works by Chicago artists in the last 30 years.​ ​ 

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

Prevent Traffic Congestion 

Avoid traffic back-ups into O’Hare and Midway by considering the following tips: 

  • Cell Phone Lots are 100% free at both airports. Avoid circling and wait in the convenient parking lots until arriving passengers call to say they are ready for pickup. The O’Hare Cell Phone Lot is at 560 N. Bessie Coleman Dr., and the Midway Cell Phone Lot is located at West 61st Street and South Cicero Avenue.  
  • 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 Airport Transit System (ATS) for a short ride to all terminals.  
  • The CTA Blue Line offers 24/7 service to O’Hare, while the CTA Orange Line services Midway. Both offer frequent and fast service and can help passengers avoid curbside crowds and reduce congestion.  
  • Metra’s North Central Service offers weekday service between Union Station in downtown Chicago and the O’Hare Transfer station adjacent to the airport’s Multi-Modal Facility, with access to the ATS 
  • The new Pulse Dempster Line from Pace Suburban Bus provides quick and convenient public transit to O’Hare from north and northwest suburban communities including Evanston, Skokie, Morton Grove, Niles, Park Ridge, Des Plaines and Rosemont. 

Check Parking Updates Before You Leave 

Departing passengers seeking to park their vehicle at O’Hare are encouraged to check the status of parking lots before leaving for the airport at  

Economy Lots often reach capacity during busy holiday travel periods. Passengers should consider booking a parking spot ahead of time for O’Hare at Lot status and advance parking reservations for Midway are also available on  

Locals picking up arriving passengers at Terminal 5 should be aware that parking is extremely limited at Lot D while construction continues on a new, six-story parking garage that will serve the facility. Drivers are encouraged to wait for arriving passengers in the Cell Phone Lot at 560 N. Bessie Coleman Dr., or to park in hourly parking in the Main Parking Garage and board the ATS for a short trip to Terminal 5.  

Kennedy Expressway Construction  

Construction continues on the inbound Kennedy Expressway, with two lanes blocked between the Edens Junction and Ohio Street. Travel between O’Hare and the Loop can be substantially delayed, particularly during rush hour, with travel times topping an hour and 20 minutes. 

All O’Hare passengers should consider using public transportation options to enter or depart from the city, including the CTA Blue Line and Metra’s North Central Service. If traveling by car, passengers should allow extra time for travel, particularly those leaving from the city for O’Hare during the evening rush hour, and those entering the city from O’Hare during the morning rush hour.  

More information on the Kennedy construction schedule is available from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).  

O’Hare Rideshare  

All pickups for rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft at O’Hare continue to take place in the Upper Level Departures section of Terminal 2. This designated rideshare area is a short walk from Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. Passengers arriving into Terminal 5 will need to transfer to Terminal 2 aboard the ATS to for rideshare pickups. All rideshare apps can drop off at all terminals as usual, and taxi and black car pickups are still offered at all of O’Hare’s terminals. 

Concessions Highlights 

The CDA continues to expand its award-winning food and beverage options at both airports. Last month, USA Today readers voted to recognize Publican Tavern, Chicago Cubs Bar & Grill and Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless as some of the best airport restaurants in the country in the publication’s 10Best Reader’s Choice Awards.  

Just in time for the start of the holiday travel season, Starbucks has rolled out mobile ordering at its O’Hare locations through the Starbucks app. There are nine Starbucks locations throughout O’Hare’s terminals: 

  • Terminal 1, Concourse B, Gate B5 
  • Terminal 1, Concourse B, Gate B9 
  • Terminal 2, Concourse E, Gate E2 
  • Terminal 2, Concourse E, Gate E11 
  • Terminal 3, Concourse H, Gate H1 
  • Terminal 3, Concourse H, Gate H6 
  • Terminal 3, Concourse K, Gate K4 
  • Terminal 3, Concourse L, Gate L1 
  • Terminal 3, Concourse L, Gate L20 

Mobile ordering for select concessionaires is also available throughout all four terminals at O’Hare through

Several new concessions options have opened recently at Midway, including a second Garrett Popcorn Shops location in Concourse B near Gate B14. New retailers Evolve by Hudson and TUMI also opened in Midway’s Central Market in September. 

Evolve by Hudson is a one-stop shop tailored specifically to the local market, blending the accessibility of travel convenience with the unique offerings of specialty retail. From chocolates to headphones, Evolve has all your travel needs covered with a selection of products from local brands. 

TUMI is an international travel and lifestyle brand offering business, travel and performance luxury essentials designed to upgrade, uncomplicate and beautify all aspects of life on the move. 

Travel Safely with Families 

O’Hare International Airport offers a Family Lounge that provides a designated play area for toddlers and young children. The lounge also features device charging outlets for grown-ups, and stroller parking for those traveling with infants.  

Nursing parents will also find several locations to safely care for or nurse their young children. At Midway, a Mother’s Room is in Concourse C, next to the airport’s Yoga Room, and a Lactation Pod is available near Gate A5 in Concourse A. O’Hare offers more than a dozen Mother’s Room and Lactation Pod locations, a full list of which is available at  

Live Entertainment 

Travelers passing through O’Hare on Tuesday, Nov. 21 can hear live music by acoustic blues and roots artist Eric Noden from 9 a.m. to noon at the Terminal 1 Bridge and a colorful, high-energy revue of pop and rock hits by CoverGirls Violin Show from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Terminal 3 Rotunda. At Midway, The Noize will perform rock, pop, country, funk and soul hits at the Battle of Midway exhibit from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

On Wednesday, Nov. 22, multi-instrumentalist and singer Sam Thousand (formerly known as Sam Trump) will perform at O’Hare’s Terminal 1 Bridge from 9 a.m. to noon. Return2Soul will play old-school R&B, Motown and pop hits at the Terminal 3 Rotunda from 1 to 4 p.m. At Midway, violinist Adrian Morris will perform from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Baggage Claim. 

On Sunday, Nov. 26, singer, songwriter and banjo player Jonas Friddle will play from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at O’Hare’s Terminal 3 Rotunda. 

On Monday, Nov. 27, traditional Puerto Rican folk music ensemble Piraguas Y Piropos will perform from 9 a.m. to noon at O’Hare’s Terminal 2 Butch O’Hare exhibit, followed by Swedish composer and sound designer Petter Wahlbäck from 1 to 4 p.m. The Sam Thousand Duo will perform at Midway’s Baggage Claim from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Holiday Decorating is Underway 

While passengers make their way through Chicago’s airports, they’ll notice CDA staff are already starting to deck the halls to get the terminals into the holiday spirit. Last week, airline and federal partners, along with community organizations, decorated trees in O’Hare’s terminals showcasing CDA partnerships and Chicago’s diversity.   

For example, the Swedish American Museum & Honorary Consulate of Sweden decorated its tree with ornaments of Sweden’s national flag and an iconic Dutchman, while the TSA decked its tree in red, white, and blue complete with the TSA seal. Other decorations include holiday light displays scattered around O’Hare’s campus and decorative banners and giant ornaments hanging inside the terminals. 

Arrive Early 

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) 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 checkpoints are available at

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 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 “My Flight” search page shows specific flight updates along with amenities located near the flight gate and other targeted travel resources. 

Note that 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. 

About the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA):  

The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) owns and operates one of the world’s busiest airport systems, comprised of O’Hare and Midway International Airports. Chicago’s airports offer service to more than 250 nonstop destinations worldwide, including 47 foreign countries, combined. Together, Chicago’s airports serve more than 105 million passengers each year and generate approximately $70 billion in annual economic activity for the region. The CDA is self-supporting, using no local or state tax dollars for operations or capital improvements at either airport. For more information, visit 

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