A common question for travelers coming into O'Hare from overseas when transferring through Chicago is how long immigration and customs takes. I personally wouldn't contemplate a layover with anything less than 2 hours especially if you are coming in on a visa or ESTA and after the line I saw on September 8, 2013, I probably wouldn't do it with under 3 hours!
For US residents and Canadian citizens ONLY transferring at O'Hare, there are new automated terminals that cut the wait time down immensely, Chicago is the 1st airport to have them. I have now used them three times and have been out of immigration in under 15 minutes twice and my bags were already on the conveyor. The 3rd time was not so pleasant, perhaps a function of multiple planes landing at the same time, that was over a 1/2 hour in line.
All passengers must claim their luggage at the 1st point of entry into the US, if you are coming into Terminal 5 which is the international terminal, you need to claim your luggage and recheck it. If you are flying from Canada or Dublin (not all flights), which have preclearance before you fly, you may fly into a different terminal and may not need to recheck your luggage but be sure to ask
After handing your form to customs, head out and find the airport transit if you are flying from Terminals 1-3, you will then need to go back through security. If you are flying from Terminal 5 then you need to just go back through security.
A couple of things:
1) By O'Hare Airport Hotel I'm assuming you mean the Hilton Hotel which is actually within the O'Hare Airport complex. If not let me know.
2) Arrival via Amrtak at 4:00 p.m. Again I'm going to assume that you are coming in on a weekday which would mean during rush hour.
3) How much luggage will you have?
4) The CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) Chicago's version of the London Tube or Paris Metro has its Blue Line which will run directly to the O'Hare complex from downtown Chicago, but the CTA blue line is about a 6 block walk from Union Station.
5) If indeed you are doing this during the weekday the CTA trains will be very crowded and you will have a difficult time with your luggage.
6) I have never had the need to take a cab from Union Station in Chicago to O'Hare since I live in the Chicago suburbs, but it will cost you probably about $50 or so with tip. Cabs will pick you up right outside Union Station.
7) I am also unfamiliar with the shuttle service J has mentioned. It is a less expensive option, but without looking at where it will pick you I won't be able to comment about it during this post. I will look at the website and see what it says.
Who hasn't flown through O'Hare, United Airline's hub and until 2005, the world's busiest airport?
Even today, O'Hare remains the third busiest airport in the world with some 65 million passengers. America's fourth busiest airport to/from international destinations, O'Hare serves over 60 foreign locations. While many consider O'Hare to be one of the best airports in the US, this distinction has to be tempered with O'Hare's horrible record of cancellations and delays.
O'Hare was constructed from 1942 to 1942 as a factory for new aircraft built for World War II. The city took over the airfield after the war. The airport was named in 1949 after World War II Medal of Honor recipient Lieutenant Commander Edward "Butch" O'Hare, US Navy. In the 1950s O'Hare was designated as Chicago's primary airport, over the smaller Midway airport that was designed in the 1930s.
Flying through O'Hare? Plan for a long layover so you don't miss your flight! I recently flew from Tampa through Chicago on my way to Abu Dhabi, and it took about 1.5 hours to get to my transfer flight. With a short delay leaving Tampa, I barely had time to make the flight. Note that the international terminal is quite a distance from the domestic terminal, and you have to find the train and figure out how to use it. Once I got to the international terminal, I took my carry on bag and boarding pass to the security line, waited a while, then was told that I had to get a new boarding pass. Back over to the Etihad counter, wait in line, learn that I have to check my carry on bag, because Etihad has restrictive carry on policies (but only from the U.S., not to the U.S.!), then back to the security line. Luckily I did make my flight, but I only had a short 30 minutes to spare.
O hare International ariport is one of the largest airport complexes in the world that shuttling in between it''s huge terminals is diffiuclt hence the airport authorities provides shuttle service in between the huge terminals of O' hare airport The tram service in between terminals and it connects between terminal 1, 2, 3, 5, and lot E. and the tram also has a stop at the public transportation station near the airport. A tram is availalble every 5 minutes atthe various tram station here at the huge o hare airport and is free.
was the number one busiest airport in the world before but now is upstaged by the newer and more modern hartsfield atlanta airport in atlanta. O'Hare has four passenger terminals. Terminals 1-3 handle domestic traffic (and some international departures); Terminal 5 handles all international arrivals and international departures that are not covered by Terminals 1-3. O'Hare is huge, but it's from an era before airports had much in the way of amenities, and it's been stretched beyond capacity for a while now. Although safety has never been a concern, O'Hare has one of the worst on-time records of any major airport. However, most of the world's airlines fly though O'Hare, so international travelers aren't likely to have much of a choice, other than possibly Chicago's Midway or Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport.
10000 West O'Hare, Chicago, IL, 60666
The airport is 18 miles (29 km) northwest of downtown Chicago.
Door-to-door shared-ride van services are available at all terminals at Chicago O'Hare. They depart from the Arrivals level of the terminals.
Shared vans cost from $20-$40 per person depending on drop off/pick up location. Companies that provide this service include:
Continental Airport Express - (888) 284-3826
Omega Airport Shuttle - (773) 734-6688
Wisconsin Coach Lines - 877 324-7767
my all time fave airline. Now Merged with Northwest Airlines and Bith are Under the Delta Airline Chain. Delta primarily operates a hub and spoke route system with hubs in Amsterdam, Detroit, Memphis, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Atlanta, Salt Lake City and Tokyo. Delta is the world's Second largest airline in terms of domestic and international scheduled passenger miles flown and the U.S.'s second largest airline in terms of domestic passenger miles flown. In addition to operating one of the largest domestic route networks in the U.S., Delta carries more passengers across the Pacific Ocean than any other U.S. carrier hence it is a favorite of people like me for it's frequent transpacific flights and the easy accruage of air mileage in its delta skymiles. After the United-Continental merger is complete Delta will become the world's second largest airline in terms of passenger traffic. Delta operates an extensive domestic and international network, spanning North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean and Australia. Delta and the Delta Connection carriers fly to 367 destinations in 66 countries (excluding codeshare), across six continents.Delta operates the world's largest hub at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Delta Air Lines is a founding member of the SkyTeam alliance.
I found out that O'Hare provides cots, pillows and blankets to overnight passengers staying at the airport from 9pm to 4am. Go to Terminal 3 and find the lobby near gate K1. I think it's really thoughtful and certainly beats squeezing yourself into a couple of seats.
Just note that they are very efficient about waking you up at 4.
O'Hare is my home airport, so I'm really not stranded there myself. However, as I travel around to many other airports I have realized one way O'Hare is lacking. They really don't have much shopping or other things to do. There are some airports like Minneapolis St Paul that have a large shopping area with restaurants and stores, etc. O'hare has a few sprinkled stores here and there, but nothing really concentrated. So, just a tip, if you know you're going to have a layover, plan on bringing something to do.
We got this great tip from www.skinnyguide.com. Most people immediately consider O'Hare, and not Midway. Midway often offers cheaper flights, and is often a much faster/closer trip into the downtown area (by cab or by train). You can also ask your cab driver to take you in via Lake Shore Drive, maybe only 5 minutes longer (maybe), but a much more scenic view, along the Lake.
I actually have the choice of either of Chicago's airports when I leave town either on pleasure or business. I can either leave my house and go a little north and farther east to Midway or go a lot farther north but not so far east to O'Hare. Either way both airports are about 35 minutes from where I live (that's without traffic).
Most of the time from O'Hare I am going through Terminal 3 which is shown in the picture. This is the main terminal for American Airlines which gets most of my business as it is the one the company I work for recommends (which means use unless you have no other option).
If anybody has come into Chicago from international locations they have flown through O'Hare and even most domestic travelers at one point or another have at least stopped to change planes at O'Hare on there way to other destinations.
There are enough sit down restaurants and snack bars along with the typical book stores and novelty stores here. One thing I have noticed over the years of traveling is that there is really a lack of retail outlets as compared to some of the other newer airports. Not a bad thing for me as I rarely buy anything at an airport, but if you need a diversion for a long wait at least you could window shop.
Updated February 2009
If you have a lot of luggage or prefer not to take public transportation, there are several other options for getting to and from O'Hare.
Taxi-costs about $35-40 each way and take you directly to your hotel. You can catch taxis in front of every terminal, first come, first serve.
Continental Airport Express-cost is $25 each way, $46 round trip if you book online. The cost goes down if you have more people, check the website for more info and current pricing. It sounds like they take you directly to your hotel but you may have to share and the trip might be longer than with a taxi.
Rental car-unless you are traveling a lot to areas outside of Chicago, rethink renting a car. Public transportation, walking and taxis in Chicago should be adequate for your stay.
For additional options see the website listed below.
Historical note-Travelers to O'Hare will notice that their luggage tags read ORD. Originally O'Hare was called Orchard Field, it was renamed in 1949 for Butch O'Hare, a World War II fighter pilot from Chicago who was a war hero. If you'd like to read more about Butch O'Hare, here's a good link:
Last I checked, O'Hare International Airport has more pasengers (daily, weekly, monthly, & annually) than any other airport world-wide. But I think the title fluctuates amongst ATL & DFW too!
There are info-booths located on lower levels at domestic and on both levels at international. There's also a currency exchange on the lower level of the international terminal.
It's maybe 15 miles from to downtown and takes maybe an hour at peak times, but like a half-hour if the traffic is REALLY good. Taxi fare is around $30-$50.