Million-and-a-half to use Midway, O’Hare this Memorial Day weekend
SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE May 25, 2012 12:14PM
Updated: May 25, 2012 12:31PM
Memorial Day weekend travel at Chicago’s airports is expected to increase between 2.5 and 3.5 percent over last year, according to the city, which expects 1.5 million people at O’Hare and Midway this holiday weekend.
The holiday travel period has already begun, and Thursday was the weekend’s busiest day at O’Hare, with about 260,000 passengers, a release from the Department of Aviation said. At Midway, Friday was expected to be the busiest day with more than 67,000 passengers.
The Memorial Day travel period began Thursday and lasts through Tuesday.
At O’Hare, holiday passenger traffic is expected to increase 2.5 percent to about 1.04 million passengers over 2011. Midway anticipates a 3.5 percent increase for the six-day period compared with 2011, with more than 444,000 passengers expected. The combined traffic is an increase of 2.8 percent.
The AAA motor club projects 34.8 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more over the Memorial Day weekend, an increase of 1.2 percent – or 500,000 – from 34.3 million a year ago. The Memorial Day travel period is defined as Thursday to Monday.
In Illinois, 1.8 million people will be traveling, a .8 percent increase over 2011, according to AAA Chicago. Of those, just over 1.6 million will be driving (a .7 percent increase) and just under 97,000 will be flying (a 6.1 percent decrease). There will be 79,000 travelers using other modes of transportation, a 12.6 percent increase. Gas prices across Illinois average $3.91, down from $4.27 in 2011, according to AAA.
“The overall domestic economic picture continues to improve slightly, however, American consumers faced a new challenge this year as steadily increasing gas prices throughout the spring significantly squeezed many household budgets,” Brad Roeber, AAA Chicago regional president, said in a release. “Americans will still travel during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, but many will compensate for reduced travel budgets by staying closer to home and cutting entertainment dollars.”
For air travelers going through Midway and O’Hare, there will be entertainment and concessions to make the ordeal a little more pleasant, and there will be special commemorations for Memorial Day throughout the airports, for civilian and military travelers alike.
At O’Hare, there will be local military school performances Friday in all terminals from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Also, the USO Jazz Band will play in Terminal 2 from 2 to 5 p.m. The Department of Aviation will also place wreaths near the Butch O’Hare exhibit in Terminal 2.
At Midway, Airport Ambassadors will be at the airport on Friday and Tuesday to greet travelers. Midway will have entertainment on Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The city will display a commemorative wreath at the Battle of Midway exhibit in Concourse A and have flags on display throughout the terminal, roadway and parking lots.
Concessions at both airports will distribute to customers small, flag-bearing memorabilia.
As part of Chicago airports’ recognition of Military Appreciation Month, concessionaires at both airports will continue to offer special promotions for members of the military.
In addition, the USO of Illinois Centers at both O’Hare and Midway will be open to all military personnel and their families. The USO will also staff tables at both airports to provide free bottled water and information on services.
The O’Hare USO Center is located in Terminal 2 on the mezzanine level. The USO also operates a Canteen in Terminal 3. The Midway USO Center is in Concourse C.
To help travelers navigate one of the world’s busiest airports, Aviation has launched a free Apple iPhone app with i-formula.com to allow O’Hare passengers to virtually navigate the airport, including exploring restaurants; and locating restrooms, baggage claims, and other services and amenities. Travelers can even use the app when offline, including when they are onboard a plane — in “airplane mode,” of course. The CDA will launch a similar app for Midway soon. The app is free through iTunes.