O'Hare vs. Midway - The Great Chicago Airport Debate

An ongoing debate for travellers to our city and Chicago residents alike is which airport to use: O'Hare or Midway. Of course, if you're travelling to most international destinations, your choice would be O'Hare. Midway only handles domestic flights and select service to Toronto and a few Mexican locales. In a city such as Chicago that is unfortunately known for its weather-related flight delays, it's important to take all things into consideration before booking.


O'Hare is the second busiest airport in the country, behind Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. This means that there are more options for flight times, but also more foot traffic and it's more crowded. The consensus from many travellers is that you must arrive at O'Hare well before your scheduled flight in order to allow ample time for check-in. Usually about 90 minutes prior to a domestic departure and 2 hours before flying internationally. Complaints of delayed flights seem to be more common at O'Hare than Midway as well, likely due to increased air traffic. Going through security is on par with what you would expect at any international airport, but is fairly efficient for the most part.

Convenient flight times often come with a cost. This means that while you may find four flights leaving at 2:00 from O'Hare and only one from Midway, you may be looking at a higher-priced airline ticket if you choose to fly out of the former. Southwest Airlines flights, which are often the cheapest option, are only available out of Midway.

O'Hare is home to a variey of restaurants, shopping, and other perks that you tend to find at larger airports. It definitely has the capacity to entertain travellers that are stuck there on layovers. Airport food tends to be on the expensive side and O'Hare is no exception. WiFi isn't free but is available for $6.95/day.

The airport is located about 45 minutes from downtown but it is easily accessible by both the 'L' and Metra. The cheapest parking at O'Hare can be found in Economy Lot F for $9/day.


Flights at Midway are dominated by Southwest Airlines, so passengers find it easier to book low-cost travel. The airport is smaller and much more passenger friendly/easier to navigate than it's larger counterpart. While still a busy airport, Midway has nowhere near the crowds and foot traffic encountered at O'Hare.

The Chicago Transit Authority's 'L' trains run to Midway. The trains can be boarded right inside the airport terminal and have a transit time of about 25 minutes to downtown and the Loop. If you are driving, Cicero Avenue can get pretty backed up so it's advisable to also plan an alternate route. Parking at Midway is $14/day in the cheapest lot. The Park 'n Fly lot has excellent reviews in terms of location, ease, and efficiency so that may be a good option to check out.

The airport itself offers less amenities than O'Hare, fewer restaurants choices and less shopping locations. However, there is still a decent selection of places to eat and the prices are reasonable. WiFi is free in the Southwest lounge, but other spots in the airport offer only 20 minutes of free access, after which it is $6.95 to continue. Plans are in the works for free WiFi at both O'Hare and Midway, but a definite start date hasn't been announced.

Regardless of which option you choose to fly in or out of our special city, I hope that you enjoy your time in Chicago. Bon voyage!

Posted by Helaine Cohen on


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