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Avoid ORD on international trips

Avoid international flights thru ORD like the plague until the reconstruction is done. They are restructuring the inter-airport transportation system that connects the international terminal to the domestic terminals. When I saw my itinerary (business class) had a 3 hour layover at ORD, I thought, 'that's Ok. Chance to eat free food in the BC lounge & have some free drinks. WRONG. In took the entire 3 hours to get from the arrival gate to the departure gate.

On my next trip to EU, I'm connecting thru DEN which is both cheaper & faster than ORD.

Posted by
5703 posts

This isn’t twitter where abbreviations are the norm. Try spelling out Chicago O’Hare and Denver airports instead of ORD and DEN when sharing intel. Thank you.

Posted by
7205 posts

Actually those are very common airport codes...

And I agree totally that ORD is about THE worst airport in the world - and I used to think nothing could be worse than Atlanta (ATL).

Posted by
6570 posts

O'Hare is of course a huge airport, however there are so many other U.S. airports that better serve overseas destinations.
I remember those Friday afternoons sitting on the tarmac in Chicago for hours waiting to get off the ground. And that wasn't even in the winter with the dismal weather conditions. I lived in Atlanta many years, and never found myself just sitting. Problem with Hartsfield is the cost of European flights from there.

Posted by
4412 posts

Despite flying into both Chicago O'Hare and Orlando International on several occasions my immediate assumption whenever I see the ORD code is that it is Orlando, gets me every time! ORD just seems a natural code for Orlando.

Posted by
21260 posts

Everyone has their airport horrid story and airports to avoids. Ours is Philly and Dulles. Always good luck with O'Hare except for August thunderstorms.

Posted by
1153 posts

I agree. My experience last summer switching from Aer Lingus to United was a nightmare and I almost didn't make it although there was plenty of time.

Posted by
1217 posts

ORD is the perfectly logical airport code for the original Orchard Field.

MCO is the perfectly logical airport code for the original McCoy Air Force Base in Orlando.

But then my closest commercial airport is known by something like five different names in assorted airline ticketing systems because it's too insignificant for them to synchronize across platforms so even the local airport authority encourages us to flyVPS.com and I'm used to speaking in codes at this point.

And hey, as someone who lives in the small market Southeast, I've learned to stop worrying and love the ATL. Yea, it's way too huge and prone to summer weather delays but it's got a logical layout with a common airside area and I know to give myself a good buffer for connections there now.

Posted by
6355 posts

I know ORD, but I'm still trying to figure out what BC lounge is. And I don't think it's necessary to spell out Chicago O'Hare if you just say ORD airport, everyone will know what you're talking about.

Posted by
2755 posts

Thanks Claudia, I didn't want to have to look up ORD. If you don't fly through them, you are less likely to know the codes. We call O'Hare by its name in conversation, not its acronym.

Posted by
6570 posts

We Southerners have accepted that when we die and go to Heaven, we first have to make a connection at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta to get there.

Posted by
412 posts

I think everyone has their own bad/disliked airports, but in this case it's worth noting that this isn't just normal grousing about O'Hare, but the fact that there is a deviation from (and worsening of) normal operations.

In other words, normally the transfer between T5 (all international arrivals and some international departures) and T1/2/3 (domestic flights and other international departures) can be done -- and can only be done -- via the ORD Airport Transit System, which is a train. It's not possible to walk between T5 and T1/2/3 as they are separated by taxiways.

But because the ATS is undergoing extensive renovations, it's totally closed which means that bus shuttles have been put into place. The bus shuttles of course take longer than the train, so making a T5 to T1/2/3 transfer at O'Hare is even more painful than normal.

Posted by
921 posts

We don't really have a choice, bad or not, O'Hare is our closest international airport with direct flights to many places in Europe. I have used it for 3 international flights in the past 4 years and, knock on wood, it has gone better than expected. Of course, my expectations are quite low. Any idea when the construction will be done?

Posted by
928 posts

Direct flights from an airport vs. having to change planes/terminals are two very different things. Original poster is specifically speaking of having to change terminals at O'Hare.

Posted by
1524 posts

And I used to think JFK and LGA in NY were bad in compare to the others mentioned.

Posted by
4700 posts

O'Hare is never my first choice for a connection airport, but I'm flying through on the way back from Europe soon. I'm using an award ticket so not a lot of choice for connections (and other than going through O'Hare, it's a good connection, only one). I've got about two hours, I've got Global Entry, no checked bags, and I move pretty fast. We'll see how it goes!

Posted by
2164 posts

I have never connected in a US airport, always get myself to Europe first--but I also fly out of SFO so there's plenty of direct flights from there as it is.

Posted by
67 posts

The ORD people mover (terminal tram) is set to reopen in late fall.

Posted by
1217 posts

We Southerners have accepted that when we die and go to Heaven, we first have to make a connection at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta to get there.

Delta is apparently the largest carrier of human remains so for some this is literal.

TATL- transatlantic service
transcon- transcontinent service
transpac- transpacific service

Posted by
175 posts

I have already booked tickets with Delta from Detroit to O'Hare (arriving in Terminal 2) at 6:20pm, and then a separate flight with Lufthansa from O'Hare to Frankfurt leaving from Terminal 1 at 10:45pm. Do you think I will experience a similar situation that OP did?

Posted by
613 posts

To clarify a couple points-- my 3 hr trip was from the International Terminal (T5) to the domestic terminals which I think are all interconnected. I was flying Delta. ORD is not a Delta hub, but it is a United hub & that may make a difference because I have taken United & Star Alliance international flights without having to use T5.

To Adrienne: my recollection is that you can walk from T2 to T1, Google the map of ORD to see what connects to what.
and it may be different when you return.

Posted by
3469 posts

Just avoid O'Hare. You will travel with a much better attitude if you do.

Posted by
11272 posts

" I was flying Delta. ORD is not a Delta hub, but it is a United hub & that may make a difference because I have taken United & Star Alliance international flights without having to use T5."

Since there is no passport control or customs on exit from the US, international flights can leave from any terminal. However, T5 is the only place in O'Hare with customs and immigration facilities. So, any international flight, regardless of carrier, that does not have Pre-Clearance must arrive at T5. (Flights from major Canadian airports and Irish airports, among others, have Pre-Clearance - you go through immigration and customs in the departure airport, so your arrival in the US is like a domestic arrival, and can therefore be at any terminal).

Yes, Adrienne, you should be able to get from T1 to T2 without extra construction-related difficulty. It's T5 that's the problem.

Posted by
16165 posts

I will not be avoiding ORD, since it is the closest international airport with direct flights to Europe. I drive, having given up on unreliable connecting service from airports closer to home.

Posted by
3249 posts

In January was dreading ORD for this reason but everything went well: short line for Mobilpass, short line for shuttle bus (in a heated tent!), bus took minutes to get to T1, fairly short security— plane to gate in remote T1 (the one reached via the funky neon lights in tunnel) maybe 45 minutes. After arriving on 14 hour flight from AKL short times appreciated.

Aside: How does Midway Airport receive direct flights from Mexico? Where is the immigration in that tiny airport?

Posted by
4524 posts

Just wait a few years and O'Hare will be about the only US airport where one can arrive internationally in the same terminals as your domestic flights. A massive reconstruction of T2 is planned that will revolutionize the airport.

The train will reopen this fall. At super busy times, I can see how buses would not be adequate.

Posted by
4524 posts

Aside: How does Midway Airport receive direct flights from Mexico?
Where is the immigration in that tiny airport?

Midway is not a small airport, unless compared to O'Hare. Far smaller airports around the country have international flights.

Posted by
6733 posts

What Andrew (Brooklyn) said. This is an issue for those of us who don’t live near O’Hare and don’t use it as an originating or terminating airport, but rather as a connecting airport between our local airport and Europe.

For those transferring between international and U.S. flights, it has often been a nightmare while the train thing is down. I certainly won’t put myself through that again.

Posted by
3249 posts

Just wait a few years and O'Hare will be about the only US airport where one can arrive internationally in the same terminals as your domestic flights.

Most US airports have international arrivals at the same terminal as domestic departures: MIA, DFW, IAH, IAD, DTW, SEA, MSP, DEN, MCO, BOS, PHL. The only segregated airports I can think of are LAX, ORD, SFO, ATL, and (mostly) JFK.

Posted by
1217 posts

ATL's airside is common for both international and domestic- they just route international arrivals into the bowels of things before turning them loose into the airport as a whole. For my last ATL-Grand Rapids flight, we had a gate in E terminal where my plane had been parked after arriving from Jamaica.

Posted by
6758 posts

I actually look forward to flying through O'hare (domestically) as long as I have a long layover (and not in winter). I love to stop at Rick Bayless' Tortas Frontera - best airport fare I've possibly had anywhere.

Posted by
10060 posts

And I thought MCO was.....Mickey Chooses Orlando.

Because he did. :)

Posted by
3469 posts

That's how I remember it MCO = Mickey Mouse airport.

Posted by
1217 posts

The IATA, the international body that maintains the registry of airport and airline codes, generally does not allow an airport to change an IATA airport code unless the airport physically relocates all operations to a new site. (Panama City, Florida went from PFN to ECP when they moved to a new airfield a few miles out of town) So you end up with legacy names in Orlando and Chicago and then there's little Sioux City, Iowa, which lobbied the IATA for years to allow a code change from SUX to pretty much anything else, got repeatedly turned down, and decided to just run with instead, selling 'Fly SUX' merchandise in the airport gift shop

Posted by
4524 posts

The only segregated airports I can think of are LAX, ORD, SFO, ATL,
and (mostly) JFK.

You just listed about every MAJOR international airport in the US (almost all US airports are "international". The ones that people connect through from domestic flights to catch international - and visa versa. What O'Hare is about to embark on as a REALLY big deal.

Posted by
3249 posts

Whether the O'Hare remodeling is a really big deal or not, most Americans do not use JFK or O’Hare or LAX or SFO or ATL to get to Europe. I suspect 3/4 don’t use those airports to access Europe.

This article doesn’t prove the 3/4 number but it is telling that of the top 6 airports receiving transatlantic passengers, 5 are Europe.

https://www.anna.aero/2018/04/18/transatlantic-treks-europe-americas-us-majors-lead-way-s18-london-heathrow-tops-airport-table/

Posted by
6733 posts

Funny in the last couple of years I have used JFK, LAX, ORD, ATL. . . and BOS and DFW to get to/from Europe. And most often use ORD, ATL, or LAX.

Posted by
825 posts

I generally don’t have issues from Tulsa ok to Chicago on my international flights (going). Usually get the first flight out of Tulsa, go to united club til departure. It’s coming back to states that is the problem that I have experienced.? Our next trip in may is tulsa to Chicago - to London. Return Paris to Newark to Houston then home to Tulsa.

Our 2016 trip from. Amsterdam to Chicago was disastrous coming back.

Posted by
181 posts

I have to disagree with Tom. Unless you live in/near a city with transatlantic service provided by a European carrier like BA, AF, KLM, etc., those using American carriers are going to have to transfer at their major hubs, which are Atlanta (Delta), JFK (Delta and American), O'Hare (United and American), etc. Fortunately there has recently been a proliferation of European carriers expanding service into the US - I cite specifically BA which in the past few years has added service to Heathrow from "secondary" cities like Pittsburgh, Charleston SC, Nashville, New Orleans, Austin, etc. We're excited to try out BA's Pittsburgh service later this year for our trip to Vienna, Bratislava and returning from Budapest. Lots of good connections to/from those cities via Heathrow on BA that were far more convenient than anything we could find on the US carriers.

Posted by
3175 posts

This isn’t twitter where abbreviations are the norm. Try spelling out
Chicago O’Hare and Denver airports instead of ORD and DEN when sharing
intel. Thank you.

Why? Airport codes are very common in this forum as they are in other travel forums. Look at this entire thread that even abbreviates terminals! :-) :-)

I rarely use Twitter unless there is a subway problem. Then I'm all over it. LOL

ORD sounds like a nightmare, kb. 3 hours to go from arrival to departure gate? You may need to keep warning people. JFK has a runway shut down for who knows how long. Those flying at peak times should be wary of arrival delays at JFK and allow for more cushion between connecting flights in case the departing flight leaves on time which international flights more often do than domestic ones. Not always, of course, but it is likely.

And I used to think JFK and LGA in NY were bad in compare to the
others mentioned.

Yup! Departing LGA is only best in the early morning. Arriving at LGA is the easiest arriving at night. The biggest problem is the traffic from the construction. It's a nightmare and we do all we can to avoid LGA unless it's leaving early morning or arriving late night. JFK is now worse as I wrote about above due to a runway shutdown.

Most US airports have international arrivals at the same terminal as
domestic departures: MIA, DFW, IAH, IAD, DTW, SEA, MSP, DEN, MCO, BOS,
PHL. The only segregated airports I can think of are LAX, ORD, SFO,
ATL, and (mostly) JFK.

If you're arriving on an int'l Delta flight to JFK, you'll arrive at T4 which has both int'l and domestic flights. T2 also has domestic Delta flights; you can take the jitney between terminals which is airside. If you're arriving on jetBlue at T5, its domestic flights are also at T5 as this is the only terminal at JFK that serves jetBlue.

That's how I remember it MCO = Mickey Mouse airport.

One of the WORST airports for business travelers. I dread Orlando conferences & conventions.

Posted by
8293 posts

cindyterry’s spam reported. They do come up with some ridiculous names, these spammers. Go away, cindyterry.

Posted by
8293 posts

I do agree with Claudia about the use of airport codes in posts. I hardly ever know which is being referred to. Others may be sophisticated enough never to be puzzled, but I am just a poor soul from YUL hoping to leave soon for YVR.

Posted by
3249 posts

I have to disagree with Tom. Unless you live in/near a city with transatlantic service provided by a European carrier like BA, AF, KLM, etc., those using American carriers are going to have to transfer at their major hubs, which are Atlanta (Delta), JFK (Delta and American), O'Hare (United and American), etc.

Delta has plenty of flights to Europe nonstop from other hub airports: SEA, Detroit, MSP, Portland, and SLC. American has plenty of flights nonstop to Europe from Philadelphia and Dallas. United has plenty of nonstops from Dulles and Newark. Lots of Americans use Toronto and Vancouver, as well as Boston and Miami and Orlando. There are even nonstops to Europe from KC and Indianapolis these days.

My own MSP has an astonishing 11 daily nonstops to Europe in the summer: 4 to AMS, 2 CDG, 1 DUB, 1 FRA, 2 Reykjavik, 1 Heathrow.

Posted by
4700 posts

I just flew into ORD from Venice on AA, connecting to a flight to Portland. The shuttle bus connection from terminal 5 to terminal 3 was a breeze. It was easy to follow the signs, and I got onto the bus just before it left. The bus uses the roadway with regular passengers cars etc. so takes 10-15 minutes (without traffic) to get from Terminal 5 to Terminal 3. I suppose it might take longer at a busier time or when there is traffic. Otherwise, no need to stress.

Posted by
6858 posts

Same here; though I was not making a connecting flight taking the bus from Terminal 5 to Terminal 1 to get the subway downtown was not confusing; it just takes longer.

Posted by
3166 posts

In my opinion, the information offered by the OP is very useful to people who must use ORD and to those who have other choices. It’s good to know some specifics regarding worst-case scenarios, so that one can be prepared to make good decisions.
I recently posted about needing more than 1.5 hours to make a connection at CDG, with no passport control involved, and, allegedly the same terminal, 2E. Those who know CDG will know why I say “allegedly.” Posters often ask about minimum times to allow, and a real life case can help them judge.
On the side issue of airport codes, CDG is really clear. So why isn’t FCO LDV?

Posted by
4700 posts

It's helpful information to understand that there is construction going on at ORD and that a shuttle bus is required right now. But I don't know how useful it is to warn people that they should "Avoid international flights thru ORD like the plague until the reconstruction is done." ORD was by far my best choice (award flight) to fly home from Italy. When I initially saw this post, I worried and looked into alternatives - but I had no better option, and it turned out to be completely hassle-free. It's possible to scare people and make them worry needlessly, too.

Posted by
745 posts

We flew out of O’Hare on a snowy day at the end of April and arrived back from Edinburgh two weeks ago. We were arriving, not connecting between terminals. But the shuttle buses were absolutely no problem at all. From long-term parking to terminal and vice versa was 15 minutes or shorter.