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Chicago Terminal Woes?

Several folks posted recently about slowdowns at the Chicago Airport. We're about ready to buy tickets for our upcoming trip to Europe, and the flight times are more convenient if we fly through Chicago, rather than DFW. But of course, if the transfer times and security lines are excessive, we won't want to take the risk.

Any new developments? How long would you suggest for transferring from a local flight to a trans-Atlantic one? We'll probably be flying British Airways, which is a code share with American.

Thanks.

Posted by
18530 posts

If on a single ticket, you will stay behind security and just change gates. Easy.

Posted by
13247 posts

It is the return that is tricky. The BA flight will land at Terminal 5, then you clear immigration and then pick up your luggage and go through customs, then put your bags on the belt and they are checked to your final destination. But you will have to make your way to the terminal that AA flies from, 2 or 3 (I forget). There is a shuttle bus outside for that, or you can use the shuttle train (when it gets back going again). Then you go through security again.

Bottom line, I'd allow at least 2 1/2 hours for that.

Posted by
3092 posts

Re: Chicago Airport. Since you are flying internationally to Europe you will use ORD, Chicago O’Hare.Chicago Midway, MDW, also has international flights but primarily in North America.
We have transited ORD for an international connection in one hour but no passport control or customs heading to Europe.

Posted by
3783 posts

If on a single ticket, you still have to get between Terminal 5 (the international terminal) and Terminals 1-2-3 (whichever one the flight to Tulsa goes to/comes from, I forget exactly but think it was Terminal 3 ). They are way apart from each other. There is no way to go by foot. You absolutely will not stay behind the line and just cross over.

I found entering the U.S. from Europe to be the real problem. It is only because of a minor miracle that I did not miss my onward flight to Tulsa.

You could not pay me to fly through O'Hare to or from Europe until they get the trains back up. What looks convenient on paper (better connection time) flies out the window when faced with the realities of the non-functional inter-Terminal transport at ORD currently.

Posted by
13247 posts

Problem areas are when you transfer to an airline that flies out of Terminal 5. Swiss and Aer Lingus come to mind. So you could get a code share flight on United and have to transfer from Terminal 1 to Terminal 5 and go through security again there. But airlines like BA, Lufthansa depart from their domestic partner airline's regular terminal. All international flights (except from Canada) land at Terminal 5, since that is where immigration and customs are located.

Posted by
381 posts

American is terminal 3. Your departure will probably be terminal 3. Coming back it will be terminal 5 to land then you need to get to terminal 3 for your departure home. When is your flight? I think the train is up in Sept.

Posted by
776 posts

My international flight last summer via ORD going and coming home convinced me I will never do that again. It was awful getting a bus from intl terminal, dragging my carry on (luckily my bags were transferred and I had done passport control & immigration in Ireland) to the Utd terminal. Had to go through security again of course and just barely made my plane (they closed the door after I sat down.) It was hot, stressful, tiring and not a pleasant end to my wonderful trip. Never again!

Posted by
288 posts

I usually choose ORD to connect through from the midwest as it is a shorter flying time to Europe than Dallas -Chicago is just difficulty coming back into. Passport control is very busy and with the new terminal connection issues, (T5 to T3) I would select a flight with about a 4 hour layover.

Posted by
13247 posts

I don't know how Dallas works, but you have the same issues at MSP or DTW with a separate terminal for international arrivals that is remote from the main terminal.

Posted by
2516 posts

Thanks, everyone. You've pretty much verified my own thoughts. And yes, the airport I meant was ORD; sorry; I should have been more specific. And our flight out is in May; the return flight is in June.

Last year we flew to Europe through ORD, and those of us who had an international connection were bused to a back door in the departures terminal, so we didn't have to go through security again. That saved a lot of time, but of course we can't count on that happening again.

We do have some flexibility in our flight choices; for example, we can go through ORD on the way there, and DFW on the way back if we so choose.

Kim, I'm taking what you say pretty seriously, because I know you fly this route regularly. And there aren't too many folks on the Forum who fly out of and into TUL.

Thanks again, everyone.

Posted by
763 posts

It sounds like you are leaning towards Dallas and I would agree. Whenever I fly internationally into/out of O'hare, I think "I am happy I live here"

To summarize and add to the problems others have stated:
-On your departing flight, the majority of BA flights leave out of Terminal 5, the international Terminal. Now, there are some shuttles between Terminal 2 and Terminal 5 where you wouldn't need to go through security again but that seems to be a little random. But if you do need to go through security again, it's a mess.
-If you do need to switch terminals and go through security, I would allow at least 3 hours. Security in T5 is always a nightmare unless you are flying Business/First. There is no TSA precheck line. And the tram/people mover that operates between terminals is currently under construction which means getting on a bus (far less reliable). Terminal 5 is separate from the rest of the airport so walking is not an option.

-On your return flight, you will 100% need to change terminals from Terminal 5 to Terminal 2 and go through security again. In addition to the above transportation situation, lines can be very long unless you have Global Entry. And if you check a bag, you are waiting 30 minutes for luggage at least.

I find flying through DFW to be delightful. It is easy to get between terminals whether you want to walk or take a tram. I have never arrived into DFW on an international flight but at least departing, you know you will not need to go through security again.

Posted by
569 posts

Jane - I can talk to you on Saturday at our meeting with our experience in Chicago. I hate Chicago and Dallas both FYI. Don’t like Newark. Only good experience I have had was Dulles. (Twice)

Posted by
3783 posts

Jane — I know it is a drag flying through Dallas (as you fly over Tulsa on your way into Dallas, you think gosh, if i could just parachute out now, I’d be home! when instead you know you still have a 1/2 hour continued flight onto DFW, deplaning, finding your new gate, waiting, boarding the Tulsa-bound flight, then flying the 30-45 minutes it takes to get back to Tulsa (2 to 3 hours after you flew over it the first time!) It drives me absolutely bananas. But right now with this mess in Chicago, that's what I'll pick.

It's funny you posted your question yesterday because I had been reading on Flyer Talk just yesterday as well to check up on the situation. And found articles that as of January this year, they shut down the train service 7 days a week to finish the week (when I came through in November, the train was still operating on weekends).

No how, no thank you!! I guess it will all be better when it is done but my word what a mess it is now. And a person with reduced mobility, I don't know HOW they would have gotten themselves up the steps on the old repainted school bus they put us on (once we finally got there after an hour's waiting in line). Oh it aggravates me just thinking about it!!!

Posted by
11772 posts

At the end of June I flew into ORD, landing around 5 pm on Friday. The lines were horrible for US citizens (didn't look any better for foreigners but hard to tell), and people in line were commenting that it was unusually bad. There was a long wait for the machines to scan passports and complete the customs information. Then you just flowed into the line for an agent to check the passports/forms (there were only 2 on duty). At least there was no waiting for luggage by then and a very short line to go through customs. It was over an hour.

Posted by
2516 posts

OK, the Forum has spoken!

Oklahoma Kim, yes, let's talk airports at our Travel Group Meeting Saturday. Paris Kim: I had to laugh when I read your post. I don't know how many times we've done just that - peered out the window as we flew over Tulsa, knowing it would be hours before we would get back there. Not only the flight continuing to DFW, then passport control, customs, changing terminals, waiting, reboarding, etc., but it seems there is almost invariably a flight delay on our DFW - TUL flight. We have flown to Europe every year for the last 10 years, and I think only once has the last leg of our homeward flight left anywhere close to "on time."

But I am heeding your stories; the time advantage flying through ORD wouldn't be all that great, and certainly not worth the risk of missing our flight home, and certainly not worth the chance of missing our flight to Paris. Paris and the Heart of France, here we come!