If you’re traveling to Chicago, you’ll likely fly into one of the city’s two major airports: Midway International Airport (MDW) or O’Hare International Airport (ORD). But which one should you choose for your trip? Here’s a quick answer: O’Hare is much larger and offers more flight options, while Midway is smaller and usually less crowded. However, both airports have their advantages depending on your specific needs.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll compare Chicago Midway and O’Hare across a variety of factors like size, number of flights, transportation options, amenities, and more. We’ll help you decide which airport is the best fit for your upcoming Chicago travel plans.

Airport Size and Passenger Volume

Total size, number of terminals, and concourses

When comparing Chicago Midway and O’Hare airports, one of the key differences lies in their physical size and layout. O’Hare, located on the northwest side of Chicago, is significantly larger than Midway, which is situated on the city’s southwest side.

O’Hare covers an expansive 7,627 acres of land, making it one of the largest airports in the world. In contrast, Midway Airport spans approximately 1,200 acres.

O’Hare boasts a total of four terminals, each with multiple concourses. Terminal 1 houses Concourses B and C, Terminal 2 is home to Concourse E, Terminal 3 encompasses Concourses G, H, K, and L, and Terminal 5 serves international flights.

Midway, on the other hand, has a single terminal building with three concourses: A, B, and C. While O’Hare’s larger size allows for more terminals and concourses, Midway’s smaller layout provides a more compact and easily navigable airport experience.

Total passengers per year

In terms of passenger volume, O’Hare Airport consistently handles a larger number of travelers compared to Midway. According to the latest available data, O’Hare served over 83 million passengers in 2019, making it one of the busiest airports in the United States.

On the other hand, Midway Airport recorded around 22 million passengers during the same year.

This stark difference in passenger numbers can be attributed to the fact that O’Hare serves as a major international gateway, with numerous airlines offering flights to destinations all around the world.

Midway, on the other hand, primarily handles domestic flights and a smaller number of international routes.

Growth trends

Both O’Hare and Midway airports have experienced steady growth in passenger traffic over the years. O’Hare, being the larger of the two airports, has seen a consistent increase in the number of passengers it serves.

From 2018 to 2019, O’Hare’s passenger volume grew by approximately 1.5%, reflecting the airport’s ability to attract more air travelers.

Similarly, Midway Airport has also witnessed positive growth trends, albeit on a smaller scale. From 2018 to 2019, Midway’s passenger numbers increased by around 3.5%. This growth can be attributed to a variety of factors, including increased airline competition and the airport’s convenient location for travelers residing on the city’s southwest side.

It is important to note that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on air travel, causing a decline in passenger numbers at both airports. However, as travel restrictions ease and the industry begins to recover, it is expected that both O’Hare and Midway will continue to see growth in the coming years.

Number of Flights and Destinations

Total number of flights per day

When it comes to the total number of flights per day, both Chicago Midway and O’Hare are major players in the aviation industry. However, O’Hare takes the lead with a higher number of flights. On average, O’Hare handles over 2,400 flights per day, making it one of the busiest airports in the world.

In comparison, Chicago Midway handles around 500 flights per day. Despite the difference in numbers, both airports efficiently manage their operations to ensure smooth travel experiences for passengers.

Domestic vs international flights

Both Chicago Midway and O’Hare serve as important transportation hubs for domestic and international travel. O’Hare, being one of the largest airports in the United States, offers a wide range of domestic and international flights.

It serves as a major hub for several airlines, connecting passengers to destinations all around the world.

Chicago Midway, although smaller in size, also provides a significant number of domestic flights. It primarily serves as a hub for low-cost carriers, offering affordable options for travelers. While O’Hare has a greater number of international flights, Chicago Midway still offers a selection of international destinations, catering to the needs of diverse travelers.

Airlines and major hubs

O’Hare serves as a major hub for several major airlines, including American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Air Lines. These airlines offer numerous connections to destinations across the globe, making O’Hare a popular choice for international travelers.

Chicago Midway, on the other hand, is primarily served by Southwest Airlines, which operates numerous flights to various domestic destinations. Southwest Airlines has made Chicago Midway its largest focus city, providing convenient options for travelers looking to explore different parts of the United States.

Nonstop flight destinations

When it comes to nonstop flight destinations, O’Hare offers a wider range of options compared to Chicago Midway. With over 200 nonstop destinations, O’Hare connects travelers to major cities worldwide.

From London to Tokyo, from New York to Los Angeles, O’Hare provides convenient connections to all corners of the globe.

Chicago Midway, although smaller in size, still offers a significant number of nonstop flight destinations. With over 50 nonstop destinations, primarily within the United States, Chicago Midway caters to the needs of domestic travelers, providing convenient options for popular destinations such as Orlando, Las Vegas, and Atlanta.

Transportation Options

When it comes to transportation options, both Chicago Midway and O’Hare airports offer a variety of choices to cater to the needs of their passengers.

Public transit – trains and buses

For those looking for an affordable and convenient way to get to and from the airport, both airports have excellent public transit options. Chicago Midway is connected to the city’s train system, known as the ‘L’, with the Orange Line providing direct service to downtown Chicago.

O’Hare, on the other hand, is served by the Blue Line, which also offers direct access to downtown.

Additionally, both airports have bus services that connect passengers to various parts of the city and surrounding suburbs. These buses are a great option for travelers who prefer a more relaxed and budget-friendly mode of transportation.

Shuttles, limos, and taxis

For those who prefer a more personalized and convenient mode of transportation, both airports offer shuttle, limo, and taxi services. These services provide door-to-door transportation, allowing passengers to travel directly to their desired destination without any hassle.

Shuttle services are often shared rides, which can be a cost-effective option for solo travelers or small groups. Limos, on the other hand, offer a touch of luxury and comfort, perfect for special occasions or business travelers.

Taxis are readily available at both airports and are a popular choice among passengers looking for a quick and hassle-free ride.

Parking availability and rates

For those who prefer to drive to the airport, both Chicago Midway and O’Hare offer parking facilities. However, it’s important to note that parking availability and rates may vary between the two airports.

It is advisable to check the official websites of the airports for the most up-to-date information on parking options and rates.

Both airports offer short-term and long-term parking options, with rates that are competitive with other major airports in the United States. Additionally, O’Hare offers a convenient economy parking lot for budget-conscious travelers.

Rideshare services like Uber/Lyft

With the rise in popularity of rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, both Chicago Midway and O’Hare have made provisions for these services. Passengers can easily request a ride through their smartphone apps and be picked up at designated areas at the airport.

These rideshare services provide a convenient and often more affordable alternative to traditional taxi services. They offer a range of vehicle options to suit different group sizes and luggage requirements, making them a popular choice among passengers.

Terminals and Amenities

When it comes to terminals and amenities, both Chicago Midway and O’Hare airports offer a wide range of options to cater to the needs of travelers.

Dining and shopping options

Both airports boast a variety of dining and shopping options to keep passengers well-fed and entertained during their time at the airport. From fast-food chains to upscale restaurants, there is something for everyone’s taste buds.

O’Hare Airport, being the larger of the two, tends to have a broader selection of dining and shopping options. Travelers can find popular brands, local boutiques, and duty-free shops to indulge in some retail therapy before their flights.

Lounges and services

For those seeking a more relaxing and exclusive experience, both airports offer lounges that provide amenities such as comfortable seating, complimentary snacks and beverages, and access to Wi-Fi. O’Hare Airport has a greater number of lounges, including those operated by airlines and independent companies.

These lounges provide a peaceful retreat for travelers to unwind before their flights or during layovers.

Family amenities

Traveling with children can sometimes be challenging, but both Midway and O’Hare airports have taken steps to make the experience more enjoyable for families. They offer dedicated play areas where kids can burn off some energy before their flights.

Additionally, both airports provide family restrooms and baby-changing facilities for the convenience of parents traveling with infants.

Art and entertainment

For art enthusiasts or those looking for a bit of entertainment, both airports showcase local artwork and provide live performances. O’Hare Airport has an impressive collection of public art installations, including sculptures and murals, that reflect the vibrant culture of Chicago.

Midway Airport also features rotating exhibitions and hosts live music performances to keep travelers entertained while they wait for their flights.

Location and Accessibility

Distance to downtown Chicago

When it comes to the distance from downtown Chicago, there is a notable difference between Chicago Midway and O’Hare airports. O’Hare International Airport is located about 17 miles northwest of downtown Chicago, making it the closer option for travelers heading into the city.

On the other hand, Chicago Midway Airport is situated approximately 11 miles southwest of downtown Chicago. While both airports are relatively close to the city center, O’Hare has a slight advantage in terms of proximity.

Highway access

Both airports have excellent highway access, allowing travelers to easily reach their destinations. O’Hare Airport is conveniently located near the junction of Interstate 90 and Interstate 294, providing easy access to major highways and interstates.

This makes it convenient for travelers arriving or departing from O’Hare to connect to other parts of Chicago and beyond. Similarly, Chicago Midway Airport is situated near Interstate 55, which allows for quick access to the city’s highway system.

Whether you’re driving yourself or using a rideshare service, both airports offer convenient access to major roadways.

Airport website navigation and maps

When it comes to navigating the airport website and accessing maps, both Chicago Midway and O’Hare airports offer user-friendly interfaces. The websites for both airports provide clear and concise information about parking, terminals, and other important details.

Travelers can easily find maps and directions to navigate the airports, ensuring a smooth and stress-free experience. Additionally, both airports have mobile apps available for download, which offer real-time flight information, airport maps, and other useful features.

These technological advancements make it easier for travelers to find their way around the airports and stay updated on any changes or delays.


When choosing between Chicago’s airports, consider O’Hare if you want more flight options, international travel, and don’t mind a busier airport. Opt for Midway if you prefer less crowds, quicker transit to downtown, and mainly domestic travel. Evaluate your specific needs to pick the airport that’s best for your upcoming trip.

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