Travel | June 3, 2022 6:10 am

The Best New Routes at O’Hare and Midway Are Summer Vacation Fodder

Bonus: If you haven’t been to ORD lately, you need to see the airport’s in-progress facelift

United Airlines aircraft during flight with a sunset over the ocean in the background. We take a look at the best new routes out of Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports.
That perfect summer vacation is still within reach.

If you haven’t been to O’Hare International Airport in a while, you’ll want to book a flight soon as there’s plenty of change afoot. First of all, the shuttle bus transport between terminals has been scrapped and replaced (finally!), a project that experienced multiple delays over the last several years. 

Instead, you may now board the fully automated train system, which transports passengers between Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 5, and is just one part of the massive $8.5-billion infrastructure overhaul at ORD. A collection of nearly 100 projects known as O’Hare 21 (the 21 stands for the 21st century, not because it was supposed to have been finished last year, just FYI), the “curb to gate” transformation is reportedly the largest redevelopment in the airport’s history, and follows billions of dollars in runway modernization work. In the mix for O’Hare 21 are two new terminals and satellite concourses, including a revamped and expanded Terminal 5 expected to open sometime this year (Delta is scheduled to move into T5 in the fall from its current home in Terminal 2). Ten new gates, a new baggage handling system and new security checkpoints are among the upgrades in the terminal.

Those on-the-horizon developments are poised to promise a vastly improved passenger experience at ORD — and, for the time being, hopefully enticing enough that passengers can overlook the ongoing dust and construction disruption needed to get there. In the shorter term, travelers can look forward to a handful of new and seasonal routes at ORD. Meanwhile over at Midway, the arrival of budget carrier Frontier Airlines brings a total of 11 new routes, with eight launched just last month.  

If you haven’t booked that summer vacation yet, here are the best bets you didn’t even know were available to you.

Flights from ORD:

Monterrey, Mexico

When a hankering for authentic Mexican and margaritas hits, you can jet off to the mountain town of Monterrey for the real thing, thanks to affordable, south-of-the-border flights on low-cost Mexican carrier Viva Aerobus. The airline will resume regular operations between MTY and ORD starting July 15, with three weekly flights on a 186-seat Airbus A320. (Viva Aerobus also offers direct flights during the summer season from ORD to Leon/Guanajuato starting June 4 and Morelia starting July 2.) We found one-way fares to MTY as low as about $173 — which leaves plenty in your travel budget for tacos while you’re there and tequila to bring home.

Milan, Italy

Looking to indulge in la dolce vita this summer? Hop aboard the only nonstop service between ORD and Milan Malpensa, which United Airlines launched in early May. The new route will be operated daily and serviced via a 243-seat Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, with a sizable chunk dedicated to higher-class cabins (including 28 United Polaris business class lie-flat seats, 21 Premium Economy seats, and 36 Economy Plus SM seats). The economy cabin, meanwhile, will have 158 seats. No matter where you are in the cabin, however, you’ll be sittin’ — and sippin’ — pretty thanks to a new promo between United and Spritz Society, which will provide passengers with free grapefruit spritzers in-flight.

The new seasonal route, which runs through September 30, is part of United’s expanded transatlantic service offering (which will be 25% larger than it was in 2019). That’s excellent timing for travelers headed across the pond this summer, as Europe is poised to see an influx of travelers following the pandemic downturn. 

Zurich, Switzerland

Another new addition to United’s transatlantic expansion: a nonstop flight from ORD to Zurich. The daily direct service kicked off on April 24. The new routes will be operated by 167-passenger Boeing 767-300ER High J aircraft, which feature 46 Polaris Business Class seats, 22 Premium Plus, 43 Economy Plus and 56 Economy. 

Already looking ahead to a winter trip (which is a pretty savvy move, considering how pricey tickets are at the moment)? Score one of the lowest currently advertised deals on the new ORD-ZRH route: $783 roundtrip in December. 

Flights from MDW:

11 New Frontier Routes

Budget carrier Frontier Airlines moving into Midway last month is a welcome addition for Chicago-area passengers, especially considering how spendy tickets are at the moment. As of April 24, travelers can choose from eight Frontier-served routes (seven of which are daily), including Atlanta, Las Vegas and Tampa. On May 26, the carrier will add Philadelphia to the list, followed by Fort Lauderdale and Orlando on October 13. With promotional fares starting at $59 one-way, there’s almost no excuse to not plan a summer getaway, somewhere, stat.