3 Major International Airports in Chicago, Illinois


There are three international airports in Chicago operating under the supervision of the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA). Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Chicago Midway International Airport, and Gary/Chicago International Airport are the three airports operating international flights to and from Chicago.

In this article, we will explore all the international airports in Chicago mentioned above. 

Major International Airports in Chicago

Table of Contents

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ICAO: KORD, IATA: ORD, FAA LID: ORD)

Chicago O’Hare International Airport is located on the Northwest side of Chicago, Illinois which is 23 km northwest of the Loop business district. The airport is commonly known as O’Hare Airport, O’Hare, or Chicago O’Hare. The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) handles the overall operation of O’Hare International Airport. It is among the busiest international airports in Chicago.

The airport designed to be the successor of Chicago Midway International Airport covers a total area of 7,627 acres (3,087 ha) of land. The airport operates flights to over 228 destinations across the globe including European countries, South America, North America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania.

History of O’Hare International Airport

O’Hare was a manufacturing plant for World War II aircraft ‘Douglas C-54 Skymasters’ where almost 655 C-54s planes were manufactured. The field attached with the plant was known as Douglas Airport and the manufactured planes were flown.

The Douglas Airport or airfield featured four runways each with a length of 1,700 meters. After the conclusion of the second world war, the Douglas Company’s contract expired and it chose to work only at its headquarters in Santa Monica, California. The name of the airport was changed to ‘Orchard Field Airport’ with IATA code ‘ORD’ after the departure of Douglas Company.

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Chicago O’Hare International Airport Aerial View (International Airports in Chicago)
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The Orchard Field Airport was then utilized by the United States Air Force during the Korean War due to which no commercial flights occurred at the airport. The airfield became home to US Air Force 62nd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron that operated North American F-86 Sabres from 1950 to 1959.

The airport slowly gained momentum in commercial business starting in 1960 due to which the need for a fighter base declined. With that, the US Air Force reserve fighter base was closed on 1st April 1997 under the agreement between the Department of Defense, and the O’Hare City authority.

After the termination of the fighter base, the airport went through various advancements for scheduled commercial flights. O’Hare became the first airport to use the jet bridge in 1958 and also use slip form paving for concrete and strong runways.

The name was finalized O’Hare Airport by the city in 1949 to honor Edward ‘Butch’ O’Hare. Edward was the U.S. Navy’s first flying ace and Medal of Honor recipient in the second World War.

The O’Hare Airport initiated scheduled passenger service in 1955 with a project investment of over US$25 million. The airport started to lure airlines after the first dedicated international terminal was inaugurated in August 1958. After that, the area expanded to 7,200 acres (2,900 ha) with the introduction of new terminals, parking, apron, aircraft hangars, and various other infrastructural facilities. 

Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 were introduced on January 1, 1962, which were designed by C.F. Murphy and Associates.

One of the biggest achievements of the airport was the first scheduled jet operation. American Boeing 707 conducted flights from New York to Chicago to San Francisco on 22nd March 1959. Midway International Airport, the airport next to O’Hare, was facing issues with limited infrastructure as it did not have a required runway to accommodate Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 aircraft. With that, O’Hare airport became the center of attraction for various airlines and served over 10 million passengers annually becoming the world’s busiest airport.

The airport went through various developments after the passage of US airline deregulation in the 1980s. Trans World Airlines (TWA) terminated its hub from O’Hare and shifted towards St. Louis. Northwest Airlines Corp. (NWA) also moved towards Minneapolis; however, Delta kept its hub at Chicago for some time. Delta closed its hub at Chicago Airport in the 1990s due to the expensiveness of O’Hare Airport. 

O’Hare airport experienced delays from the late 1980s due to inefficient runway layout as only one new runway (4R/22L) was added in 1971. The three pairs of angled runways of O’Hare airport allowed takeoffs into the wind; however, they were dangerous and inefficient.

In the 1990s, the airport got the title as one of the worst-performing airports in the United States due to the increment in delayed flights. The airport went through O’Hare Modernization Plan (OMP) after CDA committed to it in 2001. The financial issues in 2008 delayed the OMP completion and the construction of the sixth and final parallel runway (9C/27C) initiated in 2016.

The parallel runway project will be completed in November 2020 and the extension of runway 9R/27L is scheduled to complete in 2021.

United Airlines and American Airlines operate their flights from the base at O’Hare International Airport today. After the initialization and completion of the first two phases of OMP, the airport saw a reduction of system delays by almost 57 percent. With that, the airport ranked in 14th position for maintaining on-time performance by 2017 among the top 30 U.S. airports. The initial project cost estimation was US$6.6 billion however, it escalated beyond US$10 billion by 2019.

Facilities at O’Hare International Airport

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Chicago O’Hare International Airport Terminal 1 (International Airports in Chicago)


The Chicago O’Hare International Airport is among the major international airports in Chicago so, it holds four passenger terminals named Terminal 1, Terminal 2, Terminal 3, and Terminal 5. These terminals feature nine lettered concourses and a total of 191 gates.

Terminals 1-3 are interconnected airside whereas Terminal 5 is separated by a set of taxiways that allows passengers to exit security, ride a shuttle bus, and re-clear security before boarding.

Terminal 150 gates across two concourses (lettered B-C)
Terminal 241 gates on two concourses (lettered E-F)
Terminal 379 gates on four concourses (lettered G, H, K, L)
Terminal 521 gates on one concourse (lettered M)

Airlines Facilities at the Terminal

Terminal 1United Airlines United Clubs and Polaris Lounge
Terminal 2United Airlines United Clubs, Delta Sky Club
Terminal 3American Admirals Club
Terminal 5Foreign Carrier lounges (Air France, British Airways, Swiss, SAS, Korean Air)

O’Hare International Airport Runway Information

Chicago O’Hare International Airport features two sets of parallel runways that are built on either side of the terminal complex. 

RWY DESIGNATIONLength (ft)Length (m)Surface

Airlines Operating at Chicago O’Hare International Airport

Chicago O’Hare International Airport Terminal (International Airports in Chicago)

List of Airlines Operating at O’Hare International Airport

  • Aer Lingus, Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air Canada Express, Air Choice One, Air France, Air India, Air New Zealand, Alaska Airlines, All Nippon Airways, American Airlines, American Eagle, Austrian Airlines
  • British Airways, Boutique Air
  • Cape Air, Cathay Pacific, China Eastern Airlines, Copa Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines, Delta Connection, Denver Air Connection
  • Emirates, Ethiopian Airways, EVA Air
  • Finnair, Frontier Airlines
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Iberia Airlines, Icelandair
  • Japan Airlines, JetBlue
  • KLM, Korean Air
  • LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa
  • Royal Jordanian
  • Scandinavian Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, Swiss International Air Lines
  • TAP Air Portugal, Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines, United Express
  • VivaAerobus, Volaris

O’Hare Busiest International Routes

London-HeathrowAmerican, British Airways, United Airlines
Toronto-PearsonAir Canada, American, United Airlines
CancunAmerican, Frontier, Spirit, United Airlines
FrankfurtLufthansa, United Airlines
Mexico CityAeroméxico, Interjet , United Airlines, Volaris
Tokyo-NaritaAll Nippon, JAL, United Airlines
DublinAer Lingus, American, United Airlines
MunichLufthansa, United
IstanbulTurkish Airlines
VancouverAir Canada, American Airlines, United Airlines

Chicago O’Hare International Airport Technical Information

Elevation668 ft above mean sea level (204m)
HelipadH1 (200 ft)
TerminalTerminal 1,2,3 and 5

Chicago Midway International Airport (ICAO: KMDW, IATA: MDW, FAA LID: MDW)

The Chicago Midway International Airport is a major commercial airport located on the southwest side of Illinois which is approximately 19 km away from the Loop business district. The airport is commonly known as the Chicago Midway, Midway Airport, or simply Midway and is among the major international airports in Chicago.

The airport was operating as the busiest and primary airport in Chicago until the operation of O’Hare International Airport in 1955. It is the busiest airport in the Chicago metropolitan area after O’Hare Airport and serves over 20 million passengers annually.

History of Midway International Airport

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Chicago Midway Int’l Airport Aerial View (International Airports in Chicago)

The Chicago Midway International Airport was originally known as Chicago Air Park. The airport was constructed on 320-acre (130 ha) land in 1923 with only one cinder runway to facilitate airmail flight operations. The name was reformed to Chicago Municipal Airport on December 12, 1927, after the Chicago city leased the airport in 1926.

The airport saw some major changes by 1928 including 12 hangars, and four runways with lighting equipment for night flight operations. Due to a major fire incident on 25th June 1930, two hangars and 27 aircraft were destroyed at the airport and the loss was estimated at over US$2 million. 

The airport went through various development projects including a new passenger terminal in 1931. The name of the airport was changed to the Battle of Midway in July 1949.

Reconstruction project began in 1967 in which the airport encountered the addition of three new concourses with 28 gates and three ticket counters. The Chicago city invested almost US$10 million in Midway Airport renovation funds.

Midway International Airport was capable of handling aircraft like Douglas DC-9, Boeing 727, Boeing 737, BAC One-Eleven however, the runway was inefficient for Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8. Due to this limitation, the majority of airlines preferred O’Hare International Airport.

Chicago Midway International Airport Runway Information

The Midway International Airport features five runways including RWY 13C/21C, RWY 4R/22L, RWY 4L/22R, RWY 13L/31R, and RWY 13R/31L.

4L/22R5,507 ft (1,679m)
4R/22L6,445 ft (1,964m)
13C/31C6,522 ft (1,988m)
13L/31R5,141 ft (1,567m)
13R/31L3,859 ft (1,176m)

Facilities at the Chicago Midway International Airport

The Chicago Midway International Airport features a terminal with three concourses; Concourse A, Concourse B, and Concourse C. There are a total of 43 aircraft gates on these three different concourses.

Concourse A19 gates
Concourse B26 gates
Concourse C3 gates
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Chicago Midway Int’l Airport Terminal (International Airports in Chicago)

Airlines operating at Midway International Airport

  • Allegiant Air
  • Delta Air Lines, Delta Connection
  • Porter Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Volaris

Busiest Domestic Destination

Las Vegas, NevadaSouthwest Airlines
Phoenix-Sky Harbor, ArizonaSouthwest Airlines
Orlando, FloridaSouthwest Airlines
Atlanta, GeorgiaDelta, Southwest Airlines
Denver, ColoradoSouthwest Airlines
Dallas-Love, TexasSouthwest Airlines
Tampa, FloridaSouthwest Airlines
Houston-Hobby, TexasSouthwest Airlines
Fort Myers, FloridaSouthwest Airlines
Minneapolis/St.Paul, MinnesotaDelta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines

Busiest International Destinations

Toronto-Billy Bishop, CanadaPorter Airlines
Cancun, MexicoSouthwest Airlines
Morelia, MexicoVolaris
Guadalajara, MexicoVolaris
Montego Bay, JamaicaSouthwest Airlines
Punta Cana, Dominican RepublicSouthwest Airlines
Leon/Del Bajio, MéxicoVolaris
Zacatecas, MexicoVolaris
Durango, MexicoVolaris
Queretaro, MexicoVolaris

Chicago Midway International Airport Technical Information

Elevation620 ft above mean sea level (189m)
TerminalConcourse A, Concourse B, and Concourse C

Gary/Chicago International Airport (ICAO: KGYY, IATA: none, FAA LID: GYY)

The Gary/Chicago International Airport is a joint civil-military public airport located in Gary, Lake Country, Indiana. The airport is situated three miles northwest of the city center of Gary and 40 km southeast of the Chicago Loop.

The airport operates under the supervision of the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority. It features two runways with the designation RWY12/30 and RWY 2/20.

History of the Gary/Chicago International Airport

The Gary/Chicago International Airport is among the international airports in the Chicago metropolitan area that supports two other major airports; O’Hare and Midway International Airport.

Major companies including Boeing, Menards, and White Lodging Services base their corporate aircraft in this airport. The expansion of the Gary/Chicago International Airport turned out to be an alternative to construct a new airport near Peotone, Illinois located 30 miles south of Chicago.

The airport acquired the approval of US$48 million funding in 2006 (funding for ten years) to make it Chicago’s third major airport.

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Gary/Chicago Int’l Airport Aerial View (International Airports in Chicago)

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), the aviation regulatory body of the United States warned to close the airport’s control tower in accordance with the Federal Budget Sequestration in 2013 however, the closure didn’t happen after Allegiant Air planned to continue scheduled flights.

The runway 12/30 was extended from 7,003 feet to 8,859 feet in the north section and opened for service on June 25, 2015.

Facilities at the Gary/Chicago International Airport

The Gary/Chicago International Airport situated at an elevation of 597 feet (180m) above mean sea level occupies 763 acres (309 ha) of land. The airport features two asphalt runways with the designation RWY12/30 and RWY 2/20 and is the third major international airports in Chicago.

The airport offers enough space for parking aircraft. There were 111 aircraft based at this airport in January 2017.

Gary/Chicago International Airport Runway Information

RWY 12/308,859 ft (2,700m)
RWY 2/203,604 ft (1,098m)

Flight Operations

Pan Am, SkyValue Airlines, Skybus Airlines, Hooters Air, Southeast Airlines operated flights from Gary/Chicago International Airport to various destinations including Hartford, Florida, St. Petersburg, Connecticut, Greensboro, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and North Carolina. However, the commercial flights were closed due to the low demand for flights.

Only cargo flights are operated at the airport. AirNet Express operates cargo services connecting Cleveland, Columbia whereas UPS Airlines flies to Louisville, Philadelphia.

Gary/Chicago International Airport Technical Information

Elevation597 ft above mean sea level (182m)


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