Chicago Airports Ready for a Merry Holiday Travel Season with Helpful Tips

Chicago Airports Prepare for 3.4 Million Passengers During Holiday Season

(IN SHORT) The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) is gearing up to welcome an estimated 3.4 million passengers at O’Hare and Midway International Airports during the holiday season, running from December 20 to January 2, according to projections from airlines. O’Hare expects a 4.6% increase in passengers compared to the same period in 2022, with December 20 predicted as the busiest day. Midway projects passenger volumes similar to last year, with a 4.1% increase compared to 2019, and December 26 anticipated as the busiest travel day. The CDA offers travel tips to minimize congestion, promote public transit use, and highlight new dining options and holiday decorations at the airports. Passengers are also encouraged to arrive early at security checkpoints, as longer wait times are expected during the holiday weekend.

(PRESS RELEASE) CHICAGO, IL, 2023-Dec-20 — /Travel PR News/ — The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) is poised and prepared to welcome approximately 3.4 million passengers to O’Hare and Midway International Airports over the holiday season between Wednesday, Dec. 20 and Tuesday, Jan. 2, based on projections from air carriers.

“The holiday season is a magical time in the greatest city in the world, and I welcome all visitors to Chicago to explore the vibrancy of our 77 neighborhoods,” said Mayor Brandon Johnson. “I thank the entire team at CDA and each of the 50,000 employees at O’Hare and Midway Airports for doing their part to keep all of us safe, secure and moving over the holidays.”

“O’Hare and Midway are central to our nation’s aviation system, and we are proud to play a critical role in connecting Americans across the country with their families throughout the holiday season,” said CDA Commissioner Jamie L. Rhee. “As always, our highest priority is to provide a safe and efficient travel experience for everyone who passes through Chicago’s airports, with the tremendous support of our airline and federal agency partners.”

Compared to the same period in 2022, O’Hare is projected to see a passenger increase of 4.6%, and current estimates show that Wednesday, Dec. 20 will be the busiest day of travel. Meanwhile, at Midway, airlines project passenger volumes similar to last year and a 4.1% increase compared to 2019, continuing the Southwest Side airport’s post-pandemic recovery. Current estimates show that Tuesday, Dec. 26 will be the busiest travel day at Midway.

Visitors and residents traveling through O’Hare and Midway over the holiday season should be mindful of the following tips:

Prevent Traffic Congestion 

Traffic can put a damper on any holiday celebration, so passengers are encouraged to consider the following tips to help minimize back-ups into O’Hare and Midway:

  • 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.

Make a Parking Plan 

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 the holiday season. 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

Chicagoans picking up passengers arriving at Terminal 5 should be aware that congestion is heightened and short-term parking is extremely limited at Lot D while construction continues on a new, six-story parking garage. Drivers are encouraged to wait for passengers arriving at Terminal 5 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.

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.

Find New Concessions Options at T5 

O’Hare travelers departing from Terminal 5 should look out for two new options for full-service dining opening over the holiday season, as finishing touches continue on the $1.3 billion revamp of the facility:

  • The Hampton Social brings coastal-inspired cuisine and a lively bar in a setting practically designed for Instagram posts. The trendy restaurant that got its start in River North and will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner with an all-day bar near Gate M5 in the newly renovated West Concourse.
  • Bar Siena is coming to the sparkling and spacious East Concourse, which opened earlier this year to great acclaim. The airport outpost of the West Loop favorite will be located near Gate M30 and offers breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes with Italian flare and an all-day bar.

Revamped Central Market at Midway 

Passengers traveling through Midway will be greeted by the newly reopened Central Market food court and shopping area. Among the mix of new and existing brands are Connie’s Pizza, Reilly’s Daughter, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Tumi, and MAC Cosmetics.

The reimagined Central Market was celebrated by Mayor Brandon Johnson, CDA officials and the diverse leadership teams of Midway’s restaurant and retail operators at a ribbon cutting last month. The new market marks the final major phase of the eight-year, $400 million Midway Modernization Program.

Tour the Holiday Decorations 

Showcasing the spirit of the season, both O’Hare and Midway are festively decked out with holiday trees, wreaths, garlands, snowflakes and oversized ornaments lining the terminals and roadways.

Take a self-guided tour through O’Hare to find 12 festive trees decorated for the season. This annual tradition features nine-foot-tall trees individually decorated by airport partners and local community organizations. The list this year includes:

  • Copernicus Center (T1 Upper Level Ticketing), which features a traditional Polish Christmas Tree trimmed with more than 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.
  • Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (T1 Upper Level Ticketing), which celebrates artist, author, educator, and organizer Faith Ringgold, one of the most influential cultural figures of her generation, with a career linking the multidisciplinary practices of the Harlem Renaissance to the political art of young Black artists working today. Currently showing at the MCA, the Faith Ringgold: American People exhibition presents the most comprehensive assessment to date of the artist’s impactful vision. Decorating the tree are framed images of her works along with a printed scarf available at the MCA Chicago Store.
  • United Airlines (T2 near Gate E1), which celebrates the United family around the world with ornaments representing travel.
  • TSA (T2 near Gate E1), with its bright red garland and handmade ornaments that use the TSA emblem and TSA Junior Office badge.
  • American Indian Center (T2 near Gate E1), 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 E1), which covered their tree with mini flag garlands, and hand carved and painted wood ornaments including 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 (T2 near Gate E1), 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.
  • Korean Cultural Center of Chicago (T2 near Gate E1), with wish lanterns made by everyone at the Korean Cultural Center of Chicago. Each lantern shows the unique personalities of the Korean community along with their warm wishes and heartfelt hopes for the newly approaching year.
  • USO of Illinois (T3 Rotunda), with a tree decorated in a patriotic red, white and blue color scheme and glass bulb ornaments representing branches of the U.S. military: the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.
  • Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture (T3 Rotunda), with 150 handmade straw ornaments, which incorporate traditional folk art designs and motifs inspired by nature such as the tulip.
  • American Airlines (T3 near Gate K1), covered with festive flowers and glass bulb ornaments in their signature colors of red, white and blue.
  • Chicago Police Department Airport Operations (T3 near Gate K1), topped with a lit blue and silver star, wrapped in silver and blue garland, and decorated with themed ornaments like police dogs and police cars.

Find St. Nick at Chicago’s Airports 

The big man himself will greet children young and old at O’Hare and Midway over the next three days, as he checks his list twice and gets ready for takeoff clearance of his own:

  • Passengers can find Santa and Mrs. Claus throughout O’Hare on Wednesday, Dec. 20 from 1 to 4 p.m. and Thursday, Dec. 21 from 9 a.m. to noon. The North Pole’s first couple will also make their way to Midway for a special check-in with passengers from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 22.
  • Santa is also offering more exclusive engagements on his own at Midway from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 20, and again at O’Hare from 9 a.m. to noon on Friday, Dec. 22.

Live Entertainment 

The “Chi on the Fly” entertainment and music series continues through the holiday season, with fun activities and engagements designed to surprise and delight passengers as they make their way through Chicago’s airports:

  • Faces in Focus will offer free caricatures to arriving passengers at Midway Baggage Claim from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 21.
  • The CoverGirls Violin Show will offer a musical revue of pop and rock hits from Led Zeppelin to Lady Gaga in the Terminal 3 Rotunda at O’Hare from 1 to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 21.
  • ReTurn2SouL will transport passengers back in time with old school R&B and Motown hits in the Terminal 3 Rotunda at O’Hare from 1 to 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 22.
  • Mervyn “Harmonica” Hinds, a 50-year veteran of the Chicago Blues scene, will perform in the Terminal 3 Rotunda at O’Hare from 1 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 26.
  • Banjo Buddies will perform some classic Dixieland jazz by the Battle of Midway exhibit at Midway Concourse A from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 29.

Travel Tips 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. Young passengers at Midway also have a new spot to work off some energy before boarding. A children’s play area is now open near Gate A5.

Parents will 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

Take Chicago Home With You! 

An annual passenger favorite is back at O’Hare — holiday lounges! This year’s lounge theme is “Take Chicago Home with You” and features gift ideas curated by shops at O’Hare. Each lounge gives passengers a festive spot to relax and charge their devices. Now open in Terminal 1 near Gate B12 and Terminal 3 near Gate K2.

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

SOURCE: Chicago Department of Aviation