Chicago O’Hare Airport Is Getting the Revamp It Deserves, Starting With New Delta Sky Club

Luxury airport lounge
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Y’know what’s never been uttered in a terminal? “That airport sandwich really hit the spot.” When you’ve got a quick layover, breezing through a glorified kiosk for a protein bar and a bag of pretzels suffices. But when you’re traveling for business and going straight from a red eye to a conference, that’s when you need to seek respite in an airport lounge. You’re in luck if you’re passing through Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD). Delta just unveiled its new Sky Club in Terminal 5, a whopping 22,000-plus-square-foot lounge, and it’s the spot to decompress, fuel up, and become a human again after one too many delays.

The Sky Club opened to travelers mid-October, and is more or less the first domino tip in a major $7.1-billion renovation of ORD that will include terminal replacement and expansion approved by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration.

“Chicago is a global city that plays a vital role in connecting customers to destinations all around the world,” says Claude Roussel, managing director of Sky Clubs. “We wanted Delta’s O’Hare lounge to reflect that.”

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Modernization brings new tech and convenience

To bring the terminal into the proper decade, the check-in process was overhauled in Terminal 5 with updated technology and process enhancements. The check-in lobby now has kiosks for travelers to self-tag their checked bags, as well as a self-service bag drop to streamline the experience and reduce congestion. (Delta is the only global airline at ORD with this capability.) The concourse now boasts bigger, more refined gate areas and a robust Help Center with greater concession offerings rolling in early 2023.

Moreover, the move from Terminal 2 to 5 now places Delta in the same terminal as the airline’s SkyTeam and joint venture partners, so international travelers don’t need to transfer terminals and re-enter security—a godsend when connections are tight.

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Here’s what might seal the deal for those who can’t stand bottlenecking around gates: Exclusive to this location, Delta customers can now board select flights directly from the Sky Club via boarding bridges, with two separate gate areas located near its entrance, behind the wine bar.

Luxury airport lounge at dusk
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Bigger is always better

No one wants to fight for a seat in a lounge; it ruins the sanctity of the space. So size was a major emphasis for the ORD Delta Sky Club.

“The new Club is over four times the size of our previous one,” Roussel says. “When you walk in, we want you to feel welcomed, refreshed, and even inspired. The expansiveness, along with the elegance of its design, helps create that ‘wow’ moment.”

Moreover, the seating is designed and arranged with privacy in mind for 400 guests. Curved, high-top chairs create a quad of seating that feels almost pod-like; in addition to bench seating with dividers; curved, velvet-backed “sofas”; and, of course, spots at the bar.

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It’s all in the details

“Each Club throughout our system is unique, designed to reflect the city in which it lives by showcasing regionally specific art and incorporating distinctive elements of the city’s character or architecture,” Roussel says. “We used ‘elevated’ and ‘warm’ as north stars for the Chicago Club’s design to feel modern but classic—like the lush interior of an old Chicago jazz club.”

It does just that with the jewel-toned signature seating and wrapped columns. And, of course, the food and beverage offerings are dialed in, too.

Starting January 2023, travelers can experience Delta Sky Club’s Local Flavor program, which will showcase a quarterly rotation of emerging local chefs across hubs, highlighting some of their favorite recipes.

Luxury airport lounge at dusk
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Amenities for life on the go

For those with a long layover or needing a refresh after a long-haul flight, utilize the Sky Lounge’s spacious shower and changing rooms. You’ll appreciate thoughtful details around the lounge, like wave-to-open sensors to get in and out of bathrooms and charging ports at nearly every seat to top up battery levels for phones and laptops.

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Some of Delta’s Sky Clubs even have private soundproof booths should you need to take a call or have a Zoom meeting before departure, with others boasting Sky Decks where you can get some fresh air as you look out over the airfield.

One of the best features of O’Hare’s new Club is the Gallery at ORD—”pieces curated through Delta Sky Club’s art program, [which] includes large-scale neon art, sculpture, and mixed-media works featuring local Chicago artists,” Roussel says.

This integration of local art is omnipresent in Delta’s Sky Club hubs. “At every location, we work to feature local artists and curate pieces that reflect the Club’s home city and region,” Roussel adds. “The next time you’re in a Delta Sky Club, take a closer look at the artwork and find something that speaks to you.”

You can gain access to the O’Hare Delta Sky Club the following ways:

  • Show your Platinum Card® from American Express (bring two guests for $39 each; the price will jump to $50 come Feb. 2, 2023)
  • Show your Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (you’re allotted two, one-time guest passes each year; after, guests will be required to pay $39 each, then $50 come Feb 2023)
  • Show your Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and pay $39, then $50 come Feb 2023
  • Show your Delta Medallion Elite status
  • If you’re flying business class with Delta or a SkyTeam airline and traveling internationally, show your ticket
  • Buy an annual membership if you’re a Diamond, Platinum, Gold, or Silver Medallion member (starting Jan. 1, 2023: individual fee from $545 or 54,500 miles to $695 or 69,500 miles and executive fee from $845 or 84,500 miles to $1495 or 149,500 miles.)

Also note, to mitigate crowding, Delta will only allow travelers to enter the lounge within three hours of a departing flight. However, you can pop in and gain access upon arrival.

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