The Crusader Newspaper Group


The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) is preparing for a busy and safe holiday travel week at both O’Hare and Midway International Airports. O’Hare expects to welcome nearly 2.5 million passengers in the two weeks between Tuesday, December 21 and Monday, January 3 – an increase of 168% over the comparable time period last year, based on projections from airline carriers. Midway will host 50% more passengers, with approximately 500,000 anticipated over the same time period. The busiest travel day is expected to be Thursday, December 23.

“There is no greater priority for us than providing a safe, secure and reassuring airport environment for travelers and employees alike. We remind everyone to wear face coverings and social distancing where possible in accordance with federal law,” said CDA Commissioner Jamie L. Rhee. “We are excited to welcome travelers to Chicago’s airports and help make it possible for families to gather for this holiday week.”

For everyone planning to travel through the airports, please remember these guidelines for a smooth travel experience:

  • Wear your mask – In accordance with federal law, masks must be worn at all times by everyone over the age of two in the airport and on airplanes.
  • Follow TravelSafety Guidance – The CDA continues to work closely with our partners at the Chicago Department of Public Health, the federal Center on Disease Control and other public agencies to exceed requirements. All travelers should heed CDC travel guidelines, including recent changes for international travel, and the City of Chicago Travel Advisory.
  • Arrive early – With added security measures and resurgent travel demand, you may encounter longer lines at airline check-in, security screening and concessions.
  • Prevent traffic congestion – Avoid the busy curbdropoff. Consider arriving at O’Hare on the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Blue Line or getting dropped off at the Kiss ‘n’ Fly area at the Multi-Modal Facility, now served by the Airport Transit System (ATS) to all terminals. Midway is accessible via the CTA Orange Line or the Kiss ‘n’ Fly area at 59th St and Kilpatrick Ave. For those picking up travelers, avoid circling and utilize the cell phone lots available at each airport (560 N. Bessie Coleman at O’Hare and 61st St/Cicero Ave) to wait for your arrivals to call you.
  • Visit – The website contains real-time information about flights, parking updates, taxicab wait times, available concession businesses and other special alerts for the traveling public.

Thanks to a federal grant, that has recently been extended at least through the end of the year, to the Chicago Department of Public Health to promote COVID-19 safety among travelers, arriving passengers may receive a free rapid COVID-19 test at either airport testing location. Appointments can be booked through CDA’s testing vendor, Doctors Test Centers, at


From December 20 to 23, travelers will be treated to holiday entertainment and visits from Santa Claus and Buddy the Elf at various locations in O’Hare (9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily) and Midway (12 to 3 p.m. daily)

Both airports are sparkling with the holiday spirit, with festive holiday decorations adorning the terminals throughout the winter season.

Take a self-guided tour through O’Hare Terminals 1, 2 and 3 to find 12 festive trees decorated for the winter holiday season. This annual tradition features 9-foot trees individually decorated by airport partners and local community organizations. The list this year includes:

  • United Airlines (T1 near Gate B12), which celebrates the United family around the world with ornaments and a garland of international flags that are reflective of different cultures and countries
  • Lufthansa (T1 Upper Level Departures), featuring a colorful mix of ornaments including DIY bulb ornaments with staff names
  • BalzekasMuseum of Lithuanian Culture (T2 near Gate E1), with 150 handmade straw ornaments, which incorporate traditional folk art designs and motifs inspired by nature such as the tulip
  • TSA (T2 Upper Level Departures), with its bright red garland and handmade ornaments that use the TSA emblem and TSA Junior Office badge
  • Copernicus Center (T2 Upper Level Departures), which features a traditional Polish Christmas Tree trimmed with over 200 handmade ornaments — on average it takes two hours to make one ornament, reusing household items like eggshells, feathers, tissue paper, beads, straws and ribbon
  • USO of Illinois (T2 near Gate F1), with a tree decorated in a patriotic red, white and blue color scheme and glass bulb ornaments representing branches of the U.S. military (Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force)
  • Travelers Aid Chicago (T2 near Gate F3), whose tree is filled with volunteer photos spanning the 1950s — when Travelers Aid Chicago began serving O’Hare — to present day
  • American Indian Center (T2 near Gate F3), featuring traditional handicrafts made by elders, community leaders and children including small birch scrolls, prayer bundles and simple quilted ornaments in the shape of horses, canoes (representing the Midwest and Great Lakes tribes), and chili peppers (representing the people of the Southwest)
  • Swedish American Museum & Honorary Consulate of Sweden (T2 near Gate F3), which covered their tree with mini flag garlands, and hand carved andpainted wood ornaments include girls and boys in traditional Swedish costume, Dala horse, Viking and Tomten(Sweden’s “Father Christmas” gnome)
  • National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (T3 Lower Level Arrivals), featuring festive glass bulb ornaments representing the names of local municipalities in Puerto Rico, along with several Puerto Rican flags and a tree topper of the traditional “pava” straw hat
  • DuSableMuseum of African American History (T3 Lower Level Arrivals), which was decked in silver and thoughtfully curated with reprints of celebrated artworks
  • American Airlines (T3 near Gate H1), topped with a model plane and covered with festive flowers and glass bulb ornaments in their signature colors of red, white and blue


If you’re traveling with children, pick up a copy of the Chicago Airports’ Activity & Coloring Book. Free copies are available at airport information desks or for download at

The Fly with Butch O’Hare Family Lounge recently reopened at Terminal 2 in O’Hare International Airport. Kids can explore and play while parents can charge up at device charging stations along the colorful seating. Mother’s Rooms are available in each terminal and the Multi-Modal Facility at O’Hare and in Concourse C at Midway. For family dining, many concessions at both O’Hare and Midway offer kids menus and family-friendly items for purchase, and some locations offer views of the airplanes.


Food, beverages and essentials are available at both airports. While a few businesses remain closed, there are many concessions offering a variety of options at O’Hare and Midway.

In O’Hare, the new Café Descartes is now serving coffee, snacks and bakery treats in the Terminal 3 baggage claim area.

Midway Airport offers new low-contact purchase options. Passengers can order food delivered to their gate through or by scanning the QR codes at the gate. Hudson Nonstop in Concourse B offers Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology for a streamlined and contact free checkout experience.


In addition to the recently reopened O’Hare family lounge, the yoga rooms at both airports have reopened for a tranquil space to stretch or meditate.

Volunteers will be stationed at airport information booths throughout the holiday week at both O’Hare and Midway to provide additional assistance to passengers.


Whether a passenger departing on a flight or a family or friend dropping off/picking up, please consider ways to streamline and avoid the very busy curbside traffic. Everyone should arrive early and allow plenty of time. Ongoing improvements of the Lower Level Utility and Pavement Replacement (LLUPR) Project at O’Hare may impact traffic and cause additional delays in the arrivals lanes near Terminals 1, 2 and 3.

Please consider taking public transportation. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Blue Line serves O’Hare, while the Orange Line brings people to Midway. More information at

The newly reopened Airport Transit System (ATS) at O’Hare has extended service hours from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. The fully-automated train system transports passengers to and from Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 5, as well as the Multi-Modal Facility (MMF) for rental cars, Economy Parking Lot F, Kiss ’n’ Fly, Pace buses and Metra.

If you’re dropping off passengers, please utilize the Kiss ‘n’ Fly areas at the Multi-Modal Facility at O’Hare and at 59th St and Kilpatrick Ave at Midway.

And for those picking up, avoid circling and wait in the free cell phone parking lots available at 560 N. Bessie Coleman at O’Hare and 61st St/Cicero Ave at Midway. Your passengers can then call you when they are outside and ready for pickup.

For those parking, short- and long-term options are available. Visit O’Hare Parking and Midway Parking for real time updates. Traffic updates are also available on Midway’s Radio Station (1630 AM) within a one-mile radius of the airport.


In partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the airlines, the CDA is prepared to maintain operations and keep passengers safe in winter weather conditions. Crews of over 500 staff are ready to support 24/7 operations on over 350 pieces of equipment and 5,000 tons of salt to keep runways and taxiways clear and safe at O’Hare and Midway International Airports. The expanded Central Deicing Facility at O’Hare streamlines operations and enhances safety at one of the busiest airports in the world that operates in snow conditions.


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.

Additionally, two videos, produced by the CDA in conjunction with Choose Chicago, explain what to expect for those who haven’t traveled by air recently:

The public is reminded that access to airport terminals at both O’Hare and Midway International Airports 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) is self-supporting, using no local or state tax dollars for operations or capital improvements at O’Hare and Midway International Airports. Chicago’s airports offer service to over 260 nonstop destinations worldwide, including 47 foreign countries, combined. Together, Chicago’s airports serve more than 105 million passengers each year and generate approximately $60 billion in annual economic activity for the region. Please visit to learn more about the Chicago Department of Aviation.


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