New O’Hare Airport Upgrades to Buzz About

 In Chicago, News, Travel

We are always following the upgrades to our home town airport – the famed Chicago O’Hare!  Chicago’s newly appointed aviation commissioner Ginger Evans has made it her mission to enhance the passenger experience which means new upgrades are on the way!

According to a recent CDA email, Ginger Evans is initiating $3 million in expenditures at O’Hare for concession, technology and furniture upgrades.  These are tailor-made to assist passengers with access to food and drinks while making their overall experience more comfortable.

The CDA’s email states, “The makeover runs the gamut, from a new “charging wall” for cellphones and other electronic devices to additional seating, a digital art wall, self-serve “Craft Your Draft” beer taps and multiple liquor carts that allow passengers hustling to catch a flight to grab a beer, a glass of wine or a drink without going to a bar or restaurant.”

This is great news for frequent business and leisure travelers because the improvements will shorten the notoriously long coffee lines at Starbucks and allow consumers to order their food on iPads for speedy pickup, and eventually, for delivery at the gate. So you definitely won’t miss your connection just because you’re stuck in line. Also, it was reported in the email that at 11 of its 17 O’Hare locations, Starbucks plans to add state-of-the-art equipment at a cost of $2 million to the coffee giant, to bring the concession stands up to “current brand standard” capable of offering the “latest menu offerings.”

At four of the Starbuck’s locations, employees wearing headsets will take orders while passengers are standing in line and relay those orders to the barista. That will allow customers to pick up their orders and pay more quickly.

Other helpful improvements include:

  • Frontera Grill plans to debut a mobile “point-of-sale device” that will allow customers to order and pay while standing in line.
  • Seating in at least one gate area at Terminal 2 near the United hold room, will be re-arranged to improve traffic flow and add amenities. It will feature a “mobile design” ceiling, a giant digital screen and re-upholstered furniture organized into different zones that suit a passenger’s mood and purpose. They include a “chill zone,” a “waiting zone,” a “dining zone” and a “market zone.” There also will be a “food concierge” with “remote ordering capability.”
  • Overnight kits distributed to passengers whose flights are canceled during storms or other unforeseen events are in line for an upgrade, possibly through a sponsorship program. (Finger’s crossed on this one!)
  • Plans are also in the works to add an “I Love Chicago sports” apparel cart, featuring jerseys for the Cubs, Sox, Bears, Bulls, Sky, Blackhawks and Fire.
  • At the International Terminal, which already has an ultra-modern shopping mall, there’s a plan to bolster duty-free sales by adding free shipping of items either out of stock or too big or delicate for passengers to carry.
  • The new food court in Terminal 5 will introduce a pager system similar to the one that popular restaurants use to alert waiting diners that their tables are ready.
  • Aviation Department spokesman Owen Kilmer said some of the improvements will be made immediately. Others, like the new gate area in Terminal 2, will be completed next year. All of the cost will be absorbed by concessionaires.


(Left) Rendering of proposed improvements at O’Hare Airport | City Aviation slide from CDA

Two weeks ago, Evans talked about using technology to enhance the passenger experience after joining Mayor Rahm Emanuel in unveiling a $248 million makeover that will confront Midway’s biggest weaknesses and passenger annoyances: parking, security and concessions.

On that day, Evans said it was pivotal for the city to “maximize non-airline revenues” to support the investments that airlines need to make “to grow their business.”

These are all good things for Chicago travelers and visitors to our great city. Share your favorite new Chicago O’Hare upgrades with us on Facebook and Twitter @SmartCars1 using hashtag #chicagoupgrades.

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