Pros: Only 10 miles from downtown Chicago!
Cons: Midway's neighborhood leaves much to be desired! Passenger issues!
Following a major renovation and face lift, completed in 2004, Midway International Airport no longer is an embarrassment to the City of Chicago. If you haven't been to Midway in a number of years, expect to see a completely new terminal and concourses. The new terminal is much brighter and spacious than the old digs, making for happier arriving and departing travelers.
Ask any Chicagoan about Midway Airport and 99 out of 100 citizens will say that they love to arrive and depart from Midway. The reason is plain and simple. It is very convenient and a bit closer to downtown Chicago than O'Hare International Airport. I would be the one Chicagoan that is a nay sayer about Midway. I fly out of it, if I have to, but I don't have to like it!
Airlines At Midway~
I use to think that it was mostly the small and less expensive airlines that used Midway as their hubs. It appears that more and more of the larger lines such as American and Delta have a number of routes that fly through this airport. More importantly, often times the fares for the likes of Delta and American out of Midway, are a bit less expensive than the same flying route departing from O'Hare International. One can fly to Albany, NY (Southwest Airlines) or Wichita, Kansas (Northwest Airlink), Aruba or The Dominican Republic, but there aren't any departures for Europe from Midway.
Besides American Airlines and Delta, you can fly Air Tran, American Trans Air, ATA Connections, ComAir, Continental, Frontier, Northwest, and Southwest out of or into Midway. A tip for the wise, avoid Southwest departures from Midway as they seem so disorganized. The lines are terribly long at any time of the day or night.
Not all airlines have curbside check-in, so you might want to verify that information before departing from Midway. My recent flight on Delta did not have offer this service, and the result for us was "hurry up and wait" at the ticket counter.
Gates and Concourses~
There are three concourses in the new terminal. Their ease of navigation for the traveler is impressive. The aisles are wide and the installation of the moving sidewalks is a pleasant addition.Concourse A has 19 gates. Concourse B has 26 gate areas and is the longest concourse. Concourse C, having only three gates, services American Airlines and Continental. For this trip, I flew Delta and as luck would have it, my gate was the last gate on the concourse. Though it was very early in the morning, the gate was full. There was plenty of seating for everyone, and no one was lounging on the floor. Delta added a little touch of the South at their gate with white wooden rockers sprinkled here and there. The restroom that I visited was sparkling clean and custodial staff were visible not only in the restroom but in the gate area, too.
Midway is involved with the arts and culture like many large airports. Currently one can see a Keith Haring mural in a passenger corridor. (Sorry that I missed that!) I did enjoy the huge hanging sculpture of Lake Michigan towering over the security check point. Everywhere you turned there was a bright and interesting piece of art. Don't miss the large glass mural near the ticket counters.
It was just post Christmas that I visited Midway. At 5:00 A.M. the airport was bustling...much to my surprise. Arriving through the garage, Delta's ticket counters were close at hand and easy to find, once you navigated the awful Southwest passenger lines. Not being elite members of Delta's frequent flier program, we were relegated to their normal ticketing lines. (hate that)! Delta did a pretty good job of moving the line along with the three ticketing agents on duty. After all, it wasn't their fault that most of the travelers ahead of us had issues! One thing that I didn't like about our check-in process was that baggage had to be screened before checked. This has not happened to us at O'Hare. The end result is there are two lines for waiting prior to getting to the security line. Schlepping bags through the ticketing line and then again through a baggage screening line is not a good thing for this traveler! The wise passenger will allow extra time for this inconvenience.
Midway shines when it comes to transportation. Only 10 miles from downtown Chicago, one can be where you want to be within 20-30 minutes after landing. If you are traveling light, I highly recommend the Chicago Transportation Authority's, officially called the CTA, Orange Line train. The fare for a ticket to Library Station in the Loop (and near many office buildings) is only $1.75. The trains run frequently and best yet, there are no traffic jams to face.
A taxi cab will run about $25.00 to downtown Chicago with traffic and less during non rush hour times. If you care to use the "Share a Ride" service, the cost can be half of that. Taxi's can be found on the lower level outside of door LL3.
If you feel like arriving in style, the information desk near The Southwest ticket counter has a list of prearranged limousine companies. I can personally recommend a company called E-Sedan. Airport trips for a sedan and a very professional driver are $45.00. The limousine drop off and pick up area is also on the lower level at the center lane.
Rental Car agencies can be found on the lower level inside the arrival terminal. The usual suspects of Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty are all represented.
Then there are the airport shuttle vans that can take you between Midway and O'hare or from Midway to a downtown or suburban hotel. This service will cost about $15.00.
Perhaps parking at Midway is the best innovation to the new facilities. We parked for our last trip and found it to be amazingly easy and convenient. You can literally park, jump on an elevator and be inside the baggage area or terminal in less than five minutes! Midway offers both short and long term parking. You will be charged $23 a day for parking in the indoor 6 story structure. If you are just running in for a quick pick up, the first 30 minutes are free! Considerably less expensive and less convenient, the Economy Lot charges $10 a day. Free shuttle buses are available for the quarter mile ride to the terminal. All types of credit cards or cash and checks are accepted as payment for parking.
Unlike O'Hare airport, Midway does not have its' own onsite hotel. There are many economical hotel and motels lining Cicero Avenue, which is the main drag heading to and from the airport. None of them are anything I would recommend. I might suggest that you pass on these lodging options as the neighborhood is not great. With downtown Chicago being so close you can see it from the airport, why not just keep on going to the city?
With in-flight food service being almost nonexistent these days, one can satisfy their munchies quite well at Midway. The new terminal now boasts a "concessions triangle" with diverse dining options. I was quite surprised to find some of the venues open at 5:30 A.M. during my last visit to Midway. The longest line was at McDonalds. Starbucks was open as well. I am not one to eat at airports, in fact, I have only done so twice in my many years of flying. One of those times was at Midway's Potbelly Sandwich Works Restaurant. They are known in Chicago for their fabulous made to order sandwiches. I had a breakfast omelet here once and was able to have it "my way".........egg whites, Swiss cheese, and mushrooms. It was really quite good. In the mood for a hot dog? Try Gold Coast Dogs. This is a true Chicago style dog that is delicious! I haven't had one from Midway, but Gold Coast Dogs has always been a Chicago classic downtown. For something a bit more upscale you might try Harry Caray's, which is the restaurant and namesake of the deceased Chicago sportscaster, Harry Caray. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There is also an Irish Pub, a Taverna, and a Taylor Street Market, all outposts of downtown restaurants. For a complete listing of Midway food concessions, go to: http://www.ohare.com/midway/passenger_services/services_food.shtm
Yes, you can shop at Midway, but I personally haven't. If you forgot your tunes, there is a music store. If your luggage took a beating on your recent flight, Wilson's Leather might be your best bet. Forgot your Chicago souvenir? Chicago Treasures offers the normal line up of Chicago paraphernalia. The Marketwalk is a mini department store offering several little brand name shops in one location. I did see H2O, which is a wonderful little shop from downtown with great lotions and potions.
My Final Recommendation~
For me, if an airline provides service from point A to point B into or out of an airport, and the price is right, that is the airport I will depart or arrive at, no matter what my opinion is of that airport. Chicagoans are blessed with two world class airports, and O'Hare will continue to be my first choice.
With all of the glowing and convenient details that I have listed in this review, one might wonder why I don't care for this airport. My negativity about Midway can be found on several levels. The neighborhood it is located in is rather questionable. The main drag that leads to Midway is lined in ugly motels, fast food chains, and convenience stores. I would not be comfortable at a self serve gas station in the area.
Midway's personnel does seem to do a thorough job at security but their methods seem less than organized to me. I have yet to encounter a "smooth sailing" security line, and those lines are always excruciating slow and long.
Lastly, during my last travels and all of those proceeding December 2004, the quality of passengers traveling though Midway airport, was in a word.......scary! I have never seen so many badly groomed people in my life. Suitcases were replaced by plastic bags and pillowcases. The only preflight showers were the snow showers falling from the sky this winters day. In other words, the lovely new Midway terminal was littered with messy people!
Because the new Midway International Airport is so very convenient to downtown Chicago, I do recommend this airport. The ease of parking and other transportation options also get high marks from me. If you don't care who you are rubbing shoulders with, Midway may just be your ticket to
travel made easy!
Helpful Travel Numbers~
Midway Airport Main Number: 312-767-0500
Chicago Airport System customer service hotline: 1-800-832-6352.
Midway Lost and Found: 773-948-6148
Chicago Midway International Airport
5700 South Cicero Avenue
Chicago, IL 60638