Chicago O’Hare International Airport is undergoing a major revamp. And not just any revamp. It’s the revamp running into billions of dollars and perhaps a chance to regain its lost glory.
There are multiple big and hundreds of smaller upgrades in the works. It’s a decade-long, work-in-progress and the end is nowhere in sight yet. But perhaps that’s standard for a $8.5 billion revamp project. The expansion program has been termed O’Hare 21. Chicago O’Hare International Airport has had the long-standing honor (for more than two decades) of being the busiest airport in the world. But increasing congestion and the unpredictable Chicago weather soon affected its performance adversely. It no longer holds the distinction. In fact, it lost the top spot to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport years ago.
Perhaps to regain its lost crown or to actually improve its infrastructure and passenger experience; the new global terminal and other upgrades are in the works at Chicago O’Hare – one of the main USA airports.
Also Read: Biggest and Busiest Airports in USA
New Global Terminal at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
The new terminal is planned as a cutting-edge and ultra-modern structure and will be one of the largest in the USA. The global terminal at O’Hare will be more than twice the size of T2 (about 2.2 million sq. ft.). It will essentially replace T2. Some of the features passengers can expect at the new terminal are –
- A new modernized baggage system.
- International and domestic arrival gates.
- Improved customs and immigration systems.
- More space for lounges and retail operations.
- Expanded facilities for airlines’ hubs.
The name itself is derived from the concept that it is the first global alliance US terminal. The new satellite concourses will further enhance international flight operations of both United and American Airlines So, international passengers will not need to transfer to T5; making travel for them easier.
The skylight at the terminal, with a six-pointed design, is a reference to the Chicago flag. When seen from above; the building’s ‘Y’ shape is akin to the branching of the Chicago River; a homage to the city’s symbol represented by ‘Y’.
The new global terminal at O’Hare International alone is worth more than USD2.2 billion. Native Chicagoan architect Jeanne Gang and her team (Studio Gang) have worked on the design of the global terminal along with other architects. The collective practice formed for this ambitious project alone is Studio ORD.
Chicago Airport Terminal 5 Updates
Investment into the almost-completed T5 has run into more than USD1 billion. Terminal 5 at Chicago Airport was inaugurated in 1993. Since then, it is the first expansion plan scheduled for it, which will increase the terminal’s capacity by 25 percent (over 350,000ft²).
After the expansion, T5 will have new gates. Its existing gates will also undergo an upgrade. The upgrades will allow wide-body aircraft used for international travel to use all the entrances. So, in total; there are now nine (could be 10) such wide-body aircraft gates. The existing three have been upgraded as well.
In the new expansion plan, both domestic and international flights will operate from Terminal 2. Since T5 is not connected via airside pedestrian walkaways, the upgrade on T2 was essential. Currently, only T5 served as the terminal for international flights. All international arrivals are from T5 even if at times the departures can be from other terminals. The new addition is L-shaped and contains various new retails offerings. It also features sustainable design elements such as durable materials, circadian lighting system, and high-performance glass.
T5 will also have four more security check lanes and improved facility for immigration. It’s baggage system also required an upgrade and will be modernized in the expansion plan. It will also include enhanced facilities for TSA PreCheck. The new satellite concourses will streamline its operations.
Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA), the operator of Chicago O’Hare, is undertaking expansion and upgrade of T5. The expansion work is likely to conclude in 2022 itself.
Significance of Chicago Airport’s Expansion Plan
The current expansion project at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport will bolster this world-class airport’s facilities even further. Be it long-haul flights to India or Australia; or other domestic connections, Chicago O’Hare is the major airport in the US – connecting the world. It connects the world via more than 50 airlines. It’s busiest domestic route as per June 2021-May 2022 data is Los Angeles and as per a 2019 data, the busiest international route is London-Heathrow.
But it is also a major airport for flights to Asia and Europe. In fact, for the large Indian-American community in the Chicago area; it is a boon to have easy access to one of the world’s largest and busiest airports. As per the bookings via Indian Eagle; ORD-RGIA (Chicago to Hyderabad) and ORD-IGIA (Chicago-Delhi) are the some of the top US-India routes.
The entire ambitious O’Hare 21 is likely to be completed by 2028. For now, you can enjoy both domestic and international facilities at T5. If you regularly take flights to India from USA, you can choose Indian Eagle flight booking services for the best deals.
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