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Spring break is projected to be busier than last year at Chicago’s airports, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Pat Nabong

Chicago airports expect spring break travel surge

Keep your seat belts fastened.

The spring break travel season is projected to be busier than last year, with an estimated 2.9 million people flying through Chicago’s airports.

O’Hare Airport expects 7% more travelers over last year between March 21 and April 1, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Midway Airport could see 2.4% more passengers over this year’s spring break period, which coincides with Holy Week celebrations, Easter and spring break for Chicago Public Schools.

March 28 is projected to be the busiest travel day at both airports, the department said.

Transit officials on Thursday reminded travelers to prepare for potential delays by arriving early, using public transit to avoid car backups and to check parking availability online.

It’s important to remember since Chicago’s airports are partially back to pre-pandemic travel volumes, according to Aviation Department data.

Midway is busier than it was before COVID-19. The airport recorded 22 million passengers last year, surpassing the 20 million in 2019, according to Aviation Department data.

O’Hare is still lagging. The transit hub saw 73 million passengers in 2023, considerably less than the 84 million travelers who passed through its gates in 2019.

Still, volume is higher than in the 2020 slump year, when O’Hare saw 30 million passengers and Midway saw 8 million.

Travelers looking to avoid the crowds and delays may want to consider traveling on weekdays. A recent survey found that a quarter of flights were delayed on weekends during spring break. Weekdays — specifically Tuesdays — had the fewest delayed flights.

The same survey found that Midway ranks fourth nationally as the airport with the largest share of delayed flights during spring break. About 32% of the airport’s flights were delayed more than 15 minutes. Delays averaged 50 minutes.

O’Hare saw a lower proportion of delayed flights, 18%, but the average delay was one hour and 11 minutes. Airports nationally averaged a 21% share of delayed flights, averaging one hour and eight minutes.

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