by Michael J. Shapiro | March 22, 2019
The Chicago Department of Aviation, along with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and airline officials, celebrated the groundbreaking this week for the $1.2 billion Terminal 5 expansion at O'Hare International Airport. The first phase of the project, scheduled to be complete by 2021, will add about 350,000 square feet to the 25-year-old terminal. New passenger amenities, airline lounges, concessions spaces and more gates will be added to Terminal 5 as a result.
Specific improvements set to debut in 2021 include:

• 25 percent more aircraft parking space, in the form of 10 new gates, which will better suit large aircraft and reduce delays;

• 75 percent more passenger amenity space, which will accommodate 15 new dining and retail establishments;

• 70 percent more premium lounge space, including a new Delta Sky Club, and

• Six new security lanes and improved immigration facilities.

When the new gates have been completed, Delta Air Lines will move its operations from Terminal 2 to the expanded Terminal 5 -- allowing the carrier to consolidate its operations with its Sky Team alliance partners.

By the following year, in 2022, a state-of-the-art baggage-handling system, including baggage ID, will replace the 25-year-old system that's currently in place. A phased construction and rollout should minimize disruption to operations.

Successive expansion phases will include the new O'Hare Global Terminal, slated to debut in 2028. At that point, all United Airlines and American Airlines operations currently in Terminal 5 will relocate to the Global Terminal.

"United is proud to partner with the city in ushering in a new era of travel in Chicago, one where United can continue to connect businesses and communities to the markets and moments that matter most around the world," said Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Airlines. "The investments we are making in our Chicago hub, complemented by the renewed commitment and investments at our headquarters in Willis Tower downtown, will allow us to better serve our customers and employees as we continue to build a future United Airlines that is worthy of being known as Chicago's hometown airline."

Future expansion plans, which have yet to be designed and approved, include more roadway leading to Terminal 5, improved curbside services, a new parking garage and, potentially, a new terminal-adjacent hotel.

Airline funding approval for the Terminal 5 expansion was received in 2017, and an additional $8.5 billion was approved as part of a new airline use and lease agreement last March. That funding is meant to cover the new Global Terminal, as well as three new concourses, 25 percent more gates and 60 percent more airport terminal area. All airlines using O'Hare will benefit from the expansion.

Under Mayor Emanuel's tenure, which ends this year, more than $11 billion has been approved for airfield, passenger terminal and infrastructure improvements to Chicago's airports.