Mayor Lori E Lightfoot joined the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) to celebrate the grand opening of the new eastern extension of O’Hare’s Terminal 5.

The upgraded terminal improves efficiency and the passenger experience with expanded gate capacity, amenity space, security checkpoints, and more, the department said. The expansion represents the latest stage in a $1.3bn, four-year project to expand and modernise the key gateway at O'Hare International Airport. 

“O’Hare is a significant economic engine for our entire region and the first impression of Chicago for millions of visitors every year,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “That's why we are especially proud to cut the ribbon to this expanded, modernised Terminal 5, which represents a major milestone in O’Hare’s kerb-to-gate transformation into one of the great airports of the 21st century under the O’Hare 21 capital improvement programme.” 

“With new gates, increased passenger amenities, a more efficient baggage handling system, and expanded security checkpoints and customs facilities, the state-of-the-art Terminal 5 of today is equipped to handle the growing demand we expect O’Hare to see in the coming years,” CDA commissioner Jamie L Rhee said. “These crucial infrastructure investments will ensure that O’Hare maintains the capacity it needs to move forward with other O’Hare 21 work with minimal impact to operations.” 

Crews broke ground in 2019 on the modernisation of Terminal 5, with construction led by Austin Power Partners. The project increased the terminal’s capacity by 25% to improve efficiency and reduce delays. Passenger amenity space was boosted by 75%, and the existing building was expanded by approximately 350,000 sq ft, with additional renovations to 750,000 sq ft of the existing structure.  

The firms HOK and Muller & Muller led the redesign of the facilities, maintaining the integrity of the terminal’s original 1993 design while modernising it for the 21st century. The vaulted ceilings welcome natural light and offer views across the airfield toward the Chicago skyline, the CDA said. 

Sustainable technology has been incorporated throughout the terminal, including 40,000 sq ft of high-performance glass, water efficiency measures that exceed Sustainable Airport Manual requirements, and new Energy Star roofing. 

The L-shaped East Concourse extension added ten new wide-body gates, nine of which utilise multiple aircraft ramp systems, or “MARS gates.” These MARS gates provide the option to accommodate larger, next-generation wide-body aircraft or more traditional narrow-body aircraft. The space it takes to park two wide-body planes can be repurposed where necessary to fit three narrow-body aircraft. 

Ten renovated gates opened in the western wing of Terminal 5 in October 2022 as the new home for Delta Air Lines, which shifted operations from the carrier's long-time home in Terminal 2. Delta's move also included the construction of a new Delta Sky Club, located between Gates M11 and M14, with more than four times the capacity of its former club in Terminal 2. Chicago’s Sky Club is also Delta’s first to feature boarding on select flights from two gates inside the lounge. 

The Terminal 5 project also included a partnership between the CDA and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) on a $3.5m public art plan, the City’s largest single acquisition of works by Chicago artists in 30 years. Commissions are planned across the FIS (federal inspection services) arrival corridor, the baggage claim area, and the passenger level concourse. 

The expanded and renovated areas of Terminal 5 will also be home to a range of new concessions.

The overall Terminal 5 project reflected the CDA’s ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in airport contracting, achieving a participation rate of 37% for certified minority-owned, woman-owned, or disadvantaged businesses contracting with the project’s construction manager at risk, Austin Power Partners.

Image: Chicago Department of Aviation