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Chicago-Midway International Airport

"MDW" redirects here. For other uses, see MDW (disambiguation).
For other uses, see Midway Airport (disambiguation).

Chicago Midway International Airport
Aerial view of Chicago Midway International Airport, a.k.a. the "world's busiest square mile".
Airport type Public
Owner City of Chicago
Operator Chicago Department of Aviation
Serves Chicago, Illinois, US
Location Chicago, Illinois, US
Focus city for Southwest Airlines
Elevation AMSL 620 ft / 189 m
Coordinates 41°47′10″N 87°45′09″W / 41.78611°N 87.75250°W / 41.78611; -87.75250Coordinates: 41°47′10″N 87°45′09″W / 41.78611°N 87.75250°W / 41.78611; -87.75250

FAA airport diagram
Location of airport in Chicago
Direction Length Surface
ft m
4L/22R 5,507 1,679 Asphalt
4R/22L 6,446 1,965 Asphalt/Concrete
13C/31C 6,522 1,988 Concrete
13L/31R 5,141 1,567 Asphalt
13R/31L 3,859 1,176 Concrete
Statistics (2012)
Aircraft operations 249,913
Passenger volume 19,516,127
Cargo tonnage 27,911.4
Enplanemants (2010) 8,856,025
Source: FAA[1] and airport website[2]

Chicago Midway International Airport (IATA: MDWICAO: KMDWFAA LID: MDW), is an airport in Chicago, Illinois, United States, located on the city's southwest side, eight miles (13 km) from Chicago's Loop.

Dominated by low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines, Midway is the Dallas-based carrier's largest focus city as of 2011.[3][4] Both the Stevenson Expressway and Chicago Transit Authority's Orange Line provide passengers access to downtown Chicago. Midway Airport is the second-largest passenger airport in the Chicago metropolitan area, as well as the state of Illinois, after Chicago O'Hare International Airport.[5]


Early history (1923–1962)

Originally named Chicago Air Park,[6] Midway Airport was built on a 320-acre (1.3 km2) plot in 1923 with one cinder runway that primarily served airmail services. In 1926, the city leased the airport for commercial purposes. The airport was designated as Chicago Municipal Airport on December 12, 1927.[7] By 1928, the airport had twelve hangars and four runways, lit for night operations.[8]

In 1931 a new passenger terminal opened at 62nd St;[8] the following year the airport claimed to be the "World's Busiest" with over 100,846 passengers on 60,947 flights.[9] (The July 1932 Official Aviation Guide shows 206 scheduled airline departures a week.)

The March 1939 OAG shows 47 weekday departures: 13 on United, 13 American, 9 TWA, 4 Northwest, and two each on Eastern, Braniff, Pennsylvania Central, and C&S.[10] New York's airport (Newark, then LaGuardia by the end of 1939) was then the busiest airline airport in the United States, but Midway passed LaGuardia in 1948 and kept the title until 1960.[8]

More construction was funded in part by $1 million from the Works Progress Administration; the airport expanded to fill the square mile in 1938–41 after a court ordered the Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad to reroute tracks that had crossed the square along the northern edge of the older field.

In July 1949 the airport was renamed after the 1959

The April 1957 OAG shows 414 weekday fixed-wing departures from Midway: 83 American, 83 United, 56 TWA, 40 Capital, 35 North Central, 28 Delta, 27 Eastern, 22 Northwest, 19 Ozark, 11 Braniff, 5 Trans-Canada, and 5 Lake Central. Air France, Lufthansa, and REAL (of Brazil) had a few flights per week.[12] Midway was running out of room and in any case could not handle the 707 and DC-8 jets that appeared in 1959; every Chicago jet flight had to use O'Hare, which had opened to the airlines in 1955. Electras and Viscounts could have continued to fly out of Midway, but O'Hare's capacious new terminal opened in 1962, allowing airlines to consolidate their flights. From July 1962 until the 727 appeared in July 1964, Midway's only scheduled airline was Chicago Helicopter. In August 1966, a total of four fixed-wing arrivals were scheduled, all United 727s.

Post-O'Hare reconstruction (1963–1993)

By 1967, reconstruction began at the airport, adding three new concourses with 28 gates and three ticket counters,[9] and in 1968, the city invested $10 million in renovation funds.[8] The funds partly supported construction of the Stevenson Expressway, which proved to be a major route for passengers to the airport, and Midway saw the return of major airlines during that year, serving 1,663,074 passengers on jets such as the McDonnell Douglas DC-9, Boeing 727, and Boeing 737 that could use Midway's runways, which the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 could not.

In 1979, Midway Airlines began operations,[9] the first to do so after the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, and became the flagship carrier at Midway until it ended operations in 1991.[8] Midway Airlines helped to revitalize the airport and lead the way for other discount carriers, who benefited from Midway's lower costs and close proximity to Chicago's Loop, to prosper.[8] Southwest Airlines, which began operations at Midway in 1985,[13] was one such beneficiary. Three years earlier in 1982, the city of Chicago purchased Midway Airport from the Chicago Board of Education for $16 million.[8]

The Midway Airport is the terminus of the line, which traverses the southwest portion of the city before ending in the Loop and cycling back to Midway again. The Orange Line does not run 24 hours per day (unlike the Blue Line, which provides 24-hour service to O'Hare and the Red Line), but does operate extensive hours from about 4:00 am to 1:00 am, running at an average of 8-minute intervals. The train journey from Midway Airport to the Loop takes 25 minutes.

Years of ATA (1994–2008)

In 1996, after failing to get his Lake Calumet Airport and having received harsh criticism for the idea of turning the airport into an industrial park, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley announced the Midway Airport Terminal Development Program, which was launched the following year. At the time, it was the largest public works project in the state.[14] The Midway Airport parking garage opened in 1999, bringing covered parking to the airport for the first time. The garage is connected to the Midway terminal building for convenient access to ticket counters and baggage claim areas.[9]

Continuing with the expansion project, a pedestrian bridge over Cicero Avenue was constructed in 2000, connecting the new terminal to the new concourses.[8] In 2001, the new 900,000-square-foot (84,000 m2) Midway Airport terminal building opened, offering expanded ticket counters, spacious baggage claim areas, traveler information, and a short walking distance to airline gates.[9] A 50,000-square-foot (4,600 m2) food court opened with Chicago-style food and retail options.

In 2002, Midway welcomed the return of direct international service after a 40-year absence with the opening of the new Federal Inspection Service facility in Concourse A.[15]

In June 2004, Mayor Daley and airline officials celebrated the completion of the Terminal Development Program.[8] The expansion project, designed by HNTB[16] resulted in the addition of 14 gates (from 29 to 43), with the airport now providing 43 gates on 3 concourses.[8] A new 6,300-space economy parking garage, including a new bridge and roadway used exclusively for buses shuttling passengers to and from the terminal, opened in December 2005.[8]

Simultaneous to Midway's expansion, ATA Airlines began rapid expansion at Chicago Midway in the early 2000s (decade), and was the airport's dominant carrier prior to 2004, occupying and operating 14 of the 17 gates in Concourse A.[17] However, after the airline declared bankruptcy in October 2004, scheduled service from Midway significantly decreased.

For over 16 years, Midway had been the main hub for Indianapolis-based ATA, but the airline shut down on June 7, 2008.[18][19] Earlier, the airline filed for bankruptcy in April 2008; on April 3, 2008, ATA Airlines discontinued all operations.[19]

In November, 2008, Porter Airlines, which flies between Midway and Toronto, Canada, was the only international route served from Chicago–Midway after ATA Airlines, which had flights to Mexico, ceased operations in April that year. On December 13, 2010, a second carrier, Volaris, began flights between Guadalajara and Midway.

Years after ATA (2009–)

Starting in early 2009, a construction project added a new walkway and food court to Concourse A. The project also connected gates A4A and A4B to the main A concourse. Expansions were completed in the spring of 2010.

Today, Southwest Airlines is the largest airline serving Midway with 253 daily flights. Midway is also Southwest's largest focus city. Southwest pilots expressed concern about the control tower closure between the hours of 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. due to 2013 Federal budget sequester as it will impact red-eye flights to the west coast and diversion to other airports.[20]

Privatization proposals

Chicago has considered privatizing the airport, but the deals fell through in 2009 and 2013.


On April 20, 2009, a $2.5 billion deal to privatize the airport via a 99-year lease fell through when the consortium could not put together financing. The City is to keep $125 million in the down payment. The consortium operating under the name of Midway Investment and Development Company LLC consisted of Vancouver Airport Services, Citi Infrastructure Investors, and Boston's John Hancock Life Insurance. It was awarded the contract in October 2008 by the City Council, which voted 49–0 to approve it. The consortium would have operated the airport and collected airport parking, concession, and passenger facility charges. However, Chicago would have continued to provide fire and police services. Chicago privatized the Chicago Skyway in 2007.[21]


In September 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel terminated negotiations to privatize the airport, noting that the process was no longer competitive after one of the two finalists had backed out. The one remaining was Great Lakes Airport Alliance — a partnership of Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets and Ferrovial. Macquarie was one of the investors in the Chicago Skyway. The group that had backed out was a group that included the Australia-based Industry Funds Management and Manchester Airports Group. The Great Lakes proposal had been valued at $2 billion and would have involved a 40-year lease.[22][23]


Chicago Midway Airport is the second-largest passenger airport in the state of Illinois after Chicago O'Hare International Airport.[5] In 2005, Chicago Midway International Airport was the 30th-busiest airport in the United States in terms of passenger traffic.[24]

Chicago Midway ranked highest in customer satisfaction among medium-sized airports (10 million to 30 million passengers per year) in J. D. Power and Associates' 2008 study.[25]

Southwest, along with its subsidiary AirTran Airways, is the dominant carrier at Midway, controlling 34 of the airport's 43 gates. Currently, the airlines offer a combined 250 daily departures to 60 nonstop destinations.[26]

Historic Airline Operations (Takeoffs Plus Landings)
Midway O'Hare
1958 337,421 66,205
1959 345,170 82,417
1960 298,582 163,351
1961 187,978 235,908
1962 46,873 331,090
1963 19,054 358,266
1964 19,017 389,640
1965 16,716 443,026
1966 5,090 478,644
1967 4,427 573,506
1968 26,941 628,632
1969 31,394 632,030
1970 43,553 598,973
1971 51,734 565,826
Recent Traffic
Passenger volume Change over previous year Aircraft operations Cargo tonnage
2000 15,672,688 Increase015.34% 298,115 23,260.4
2001 15,628,886 Decrease00.37% 278,734 17,162.4
2002 16,959,229 Increase08.51% 304,304 83,472.8
2003 18,644,372 Increase09.94% 328,025 25,847.3
2004 19,718,236 Decrease05.70% 339,508 29,047.5
2005 17,862,838 Decrease09.42% 289,579 19,460.3
2006 18,868,388 Increase05.63% 298,542 17,060.0
2007 19,378,855 Increase02.71% 304,657 14,726.8
2008 17,345,635 Decrease010.49% 266,341 14,254.1
2009 17,089,365 Decrease01.48% 244,810 25,010.2
2010 17,676,413 Increase03.44% 245,533 28,227.6
2011 18,883,170 Increase07.00% 255,227 26,091.0
2012 19,516,127 Increase03.35% 249,913 27,911.4
Source: Midway Airport[2]


All terminals and hangars were on the square periphery. By the late 1970s, the shorter north–south and east–west runway pairs had been closed, though some were converted to taxiways. The other four runways remain in use, all strengthened and enhanced, but about the same lengths as always. A short runway (13R/31L) for light aircraft was added in 1989.

Chicago Midway International Airport covers one square mile (640 acre, 2.59 km2) and currently has five runways:[27]

  • Runway 13C/31C: 6,522 ft × 150 ft (1,988 m × 46 m), air carrier runway, ILS-equipped.
  • Runway 4R/22L: 6,446 ft × 150 ft (1,965 m × 46 m), air carrier runway, ILS-equipped.
  • Runway 4L/22R: 5,507 ft × 150 ft (1,679 m × 46 m), general aviation and air taxi.
  • Runway 13L/31R: 5,141 ft × 150 ft (1,567 m × 46 m), general aviation and air taxi.
  • Runway 13R/31L: 3,859 ft × 60 ft (1,176 m × 18 m), light aircraft only.

Because Midway is surrounded by buildings and other development, the landing thresholds of the runways are displaced to provide a proper obstacle clearance. Both the FAA and the airlines ensure safety by adhering to calculated load limits and various weather minimums. Because of the displaced landing thresholds, the runways have shorter distances available for landings than for takeoffs. 13C/31C, the longest runway, only has an available landing distance of 6,059 feet (1,847 m) in the southeast direction, and 5,826 feet (1,776 m) operating to the northwest. The largest aircraft normally seen at Midway is the Boeing 757. Normally, the commercial planes only take off from and land on runways 4R, 22L, 31C, and 13C. The other runways are used by smaller aircraft. Out of the four large runways, all are used about evenly, with the exception of 13C. 13C is only used occasionally in certain weather conditions.

Terminals, airlines and destinations

The carrier transporting the most passengers from Chicago Midway Airport is Southwest Airlines. In 2008, a total of 17,340,497 passengers were carried through MDW, a 10.52% decrease from the previous year. Also in 2008, 253,901 aircraft passed through Midway Airport, a 16.66% decrease from 2007.[28]

Midway has 43 aircraft gates on three concourses (A, B, and C)[9]

The three concourses and their gates are:

  • Concourse A – 17 gates (A1–A3, A4A–B, A5, A7, A9–A12, A14–A19)
  • Concourse B – 23 gates (B1–B3, B5–B12, B14–B26)
  • Concourse C – 3 gates (C1–C3)

Note: All international arrivals are handled in Concourse A.


Top destinations

Top 10 domestic destinations (April 2012 – March 2013)[29]
Rank City Passengers Carriers
1 Atlanta, GA 528,000 AirTran, Delta, Southwest
2 Denver, CO 450,000 Frontier, Southwest
3 Las Vegas, NV 400,000 Southwest
4 Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN 378,000 Delta, Southwest
5 Tampa, FL 364,000 AirTran, Southwest
6 Phoenix, AZ 282,000 Southwest
7 Kansas City, MO 271,000 Southwest
8 St. Louis, MO 269,000 Southwest
9 Los Angeles, CA 264,000 Southwest
10 Houston, TX 244,000 Southwest

Charter service


Previous airline service

During the 1950s, before the rise of O'Hare, Midway was the world's busiest airport and one of the hubs of the U.S. airline system.[8] United Airlines was headquartered at Midway in the pre-O'Hare days, and American Airlines was originally based at Midway until it moved its headquarters to New York City in the mid-1930s. TWA and Eastern Air Lines and several other airlines had many flights. The terminal was extensively renovated in 1958 and again in 1967, after which several legacy carriers resumed service.[8]

The December 1970 OAG shows 86 weekday arrivals (77 jet) on 13 fixed-wing airlines from 31 airports,[30] but the August 1974 shows 14 arrivals (all jet) on four airlines, and in 1976–79 Midway had only the two or three Delta DC-9s from St Louis. Midway Airlines arrived on October 31, 1979 with DC-9 nonstops to Kansas City, Detroit and Cleveland Lakefront; they expanded greatly in the 1980s. Midway was a focus city for Vanguard Airlines from 1997 to 2000.[31]

Among the other airlines that used to frequent Midway were Access Air, Kiwi International Airlines, Northeast Airlines, US Airways, MetroJet, Ozark Air Lines (2000–2001), and Pan American Airways (1998–2004).

Both American Airlines[32] and United Airlines[33] ended all scheduled service to Midway in September 2006, in favor of concentrating Chicago-area operations at the larger nearby O'Hare International Airport, which is a hub airport for both United and American.

Big Sky Airlines started nonstop service on December 3, 2006, between Springfield, Illinois, and Midway and added daily nonstop flights to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, beginning on March 17. However, citing poor demand, both the Springfield and Eau Claire flights were discontinued on June 9, 2007.[34]

Mesa Airlines, which began nonstop service from MDW in early 2007, discontinued all flights to Decatur and Quincy, Illinois, effective November 9, 2007. The flights, which were operated by Air Midwest, were terminated citing poor passenger demand.[35]

Chicago Midway International Airport was once the largest hub of ATA Airlines and its wholly owned regional airline partner Chicago Express Airlines, which operated as ATA Connection . ATA had operated a hub at Midway since 1992. As recently as 2004, ATA operated over 100 daily flights to over 30 destinations. The airline cut back service from Chicago after declaring bankruptcy in late 2004. On April 3, 2008, the airline again declared bankruptcy and ended all scheduled operations, including service to the four cities it still served at Chicago–Midway.

Continental Airlines provided daily service from Chicago–Midway to Cleveland and Newark until May 2008. The airline discontinued Chicago–Midway service on May 31, 2008, citing high fuel prices.

VivaAerobus served Chicago–Midway to Monterrey, Mexico until April 14, 2012.

Pet Airways served Chicago-Midway with seasonal flights to Denver-Rocky Mountain before ceasing all flights in early 2013.


Significant incidents

On June 30, 1956, United Airlines Flight 718, a Douglas DC-7, was headed for Midway Airport. Over the Grand Canyon it collided with a TWA Super Constellation, killing all 128 people on both planes. This became the impetus for the modern air traffic control system.

December 8 incidents

On December 8, 1972, United Airlines Flight 553, a Boeing 737-200, crashed into a residential area outside Midway during landing. The crash of the 737-200 killed 43 of the 61 on board, and two on the ground.

Exactly 33 years later, on December 8, 2005, Southwest Airlines Flight 1248, a Boeing 737-700 inbound from Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Baltimore, Maryland, slid off the runway while attempting to land at the airport in a heavy snow storm.[36] The airplane broke through the barrier fence of the airport, and came to rest at the intersection of 55th Street and Central Avenue bordering the airport at its northwest corner.[36] A 6-year-old boy was killed as a passenger in a vehicle that was struck by the plane after it skidded into the street.[36]

List of All Major Incidents at Chicago Midway International Airport
Date Registration Aircraft Carrier Location Summary
May 31, 1936 NC14979 DC-2 Trans World Airlines - On approach to 27L, 1 engine out, strong gusts, crashed half a mile east of field
December 4, 1940 NC25678 DC-3A United Airlines 6356 S. Keating Ave. Pilot lost sight in bad weather and crashed on landing approach resulting in nine deaths.[37][38]
May 20, 1943 42-7053 B-24E U.S. Army Air Force 3625 W. 73rd St. On approach, disoriented in bad weather, hit huge gas storage tank 2.5 miles (4.0 km) southeast [39][40]
September 26, 1946 NC19939 DC-3 Trans World Airlines West of 96th Ave. at 97th St. Midair collision with Boeing PT-17, DC-3 limped in to Midway
July 2, 1946 NC28383 DC-3 Trans World Airlines - Crashed 1.5 miles (2.4 km) northeast of field
March 10, 1948 NC37478 DC-4 Delta Air Lines 5000 W. 55th St. Plane took off 36L, at 150 feet (46 m) went vertical, at 500 feet (150 m) nosed over, crashed on 55th St.
March 26, 1949 NC90736 DC-6 American Airlines - Hit power lines on approach
December 18, 1949 NC86501 L-049 Trans World Airlines - Landing too far down 13R, crashed through fence, ended up at 63rd and Cicero
January 4, 1951 N79982 C-46 Monarch Airlines - Overloaded taking off on 31L, could not climb, crashed on railroad tracks one half mile northeast
September 16, 1951 N74689 C-46 Peninsula Transport - Belly-landed 500 yards (460 m) away at northeast 63rd and Harlem
March 3, 1953 N6214C L-1049 Eastern Airlines On field Landed on 31L, gear collapsed, skidded southwest toward Hale School
July 17, 1955 N3422 Convair 340 Braniff International Airways On field Hit gas station sign on approach to 13R, flipped over, crashed
August 5, 1955 N74601 Boeing 377 Northwest Airlines - Landed 31L, could not stop, crashed through fence at 55th and Central
February 20, 1956 N7404 Vickers Viscount Capitol On field Landing on 31L, plane flopped in 300 feet (91 m) short of threshold
March 15, 1959 N94273 Convair 240 American Airlines - Lost sight of 31L on approach, crashed in railroad yard one half mile south of field
November 24, 1959 N102R L-1049H Trans World Airlines Came to rest 63rd and Kilpatrick Plane departed 31L, fire on #2, circled to land 31L, crashed 0.2 miles (0.32 km) southeast of field
September 1, 1961 N86511 L-049 Trans World Airlines - Plane departed Midway, lost elevator bolt, crashed near Hinsdale, Illinois
December 8, 1972 N9031U 737-200 United Airlines 71st and Springfield Aircraft descended too low on approach to 31L and struck houses, crashed 1.25 miles (2.01 km) southeast of airport
March 25, 1976 N1EM Lockheed Jetstar Executive On field Pilot unfamiliar with plane attempted take off 13R, never airborne, crashed into fence 63rd and Cicero
August 6, 1976 N9446Z TB-25N Air Chicago 61st and Moody Avenue Poor maintenance, plane took off 4L, lost engine 2, crashed 0.4 miles (0.64 km) west of field
December 8, 2005 N471WN 737-700 Southwest Airlines 55th & Central Landed 31C during snowstorm, crashed through fence, hit 2 cars, killed child in car, 55th and Central

INFORMATION SOURCED FROM: Civil Aeronautics Board archives, NTSB records.

NOTE: The runway now designated 13C/31C was designated 13R/31L until 1989, when a new Runway 13R/31L was built. Runways 27L and 36L have been closed since the 1970s.


Midway Airport is served by the Chicago Transit Authority's "L" trains. Passengers can board Orange Line trains at a station in the airport terminal, which runs to downtown Chicago and the Loop (transit time about 25 minutes). This same station doubles as a stop for many CTA-run buses that serve the surrounding areas. Midway is one of the few airports in the United States that has rapid transit train to terminal service.[41]

See also

Chicago portal
Illinois portal
Aviation portal


External links

  • Midway International Airport: Terminal and Concourse Maps
  • TWA Crash of 1959
  • 1972 Crash Summary
  • Midway Airport, South Terminal, Cicero Avenue between Fifty-fifth & Sixty-third Streets, Chicago, Cook, IL at the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS)
  • Survey number HABS IL-305 – Midway Airport, South Terminal, Cicero Avenue between Fifty-fifth & Sixty-third Streets, Chicago, Cook County, IL
  • openNav: MDW / KMDW charts
  • PDF), effective May 29, 2014
  • Resources for this airport:
    • AirNav airport information for KMDW
    • ASN accident history for MDW
    • FlightAware live flight tracker
    • NOAA/NWS latest weather observations
    • SkyVector aeronautical chart for KMDW
    • FAA current MDW delay information
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