BEST STAR ALLIANCE LOUNGE OPTIONS – CHICAGO O’HARE (ORD)
As the most common layover stop for coast-to-coast flights within the US, Chicago O’Hare (ORD) is well-known to travelers worldwide.
And because of its immense traffic for connecting flights, it’s no surprise that it’s one of the most frequently sought after airports with regards to lounge access.
Today, we take a look at the lounge options for Star Alliance travelers departing/connecting through ORD, and reveal the best lounges for kicking back with a pre-flight martini in style.
Chicago O’Hare is divided into two unconnected terminal complexes:
Terminals 1, 2, 3 – These terminals handle domestic and international flights of US carriers and are connected airside. Passengers can walk freely between them.
Terminal 5 – This is ORD’s international terminal which handles the vast majority of international flights for non-US carriers.
To transit between these terminals, passengers must exit security and take the airport rail system.
Let’s break down the Star Alliance lounge options in each terminal complex:
United Clubs are the only game in town for Star Alliance travelers in these terminals. Lufthansa and Air Canada both offer departing flights, but neither airline has a standalone lounge.
Thankfully, United serves up four separate clubs from which to choose. One of these is currently closed for renovation, leaving travelers with three current options:
– Terminal 1, Concourse B
– Terminal 1, Concourse C
– Terminal 2, Concourse F
We recently had a chance to review all three. As we’ve covered, United Clubs are undergoing renovations worldwide, having a substantial impact on options for travelers.*
The Terminal 1, Concourse C Club is open but undergoing substantial renovation. In the meantime, visitors are left with a workaround solution – a rearranged club surrounded by white construction walls and minimal space. The food/drink options are on still on hand, but it’s cramped and far from the ideal lounge experience.
The other two clubs (Terminal 1/B, and Terminal 2/F) are substantially more impressive. Both are fully renovated and feature the new, modern look that will ultimately be unveiled at all United Clubs.
The food and drink options were very good, especially at mealtimes, and mark a huge leap forward not just for United but for any US-based airline lounge. While neither lounge matches the spectacle of United’s new London club, they are still considerable upgrades.
The Terminal 1, Concourse B United Club offers the new, modern look but it is the smaller of the two, leading it to be particularly overcrowded during peak times when many visitors cannot even find a seat.
The Terminal 2, Concourse F United Club is our pick of the bunch. It has the most space, plenty of lounge and table seating, a better/larger bar, and was the first United Club at ORD to debut the new look.
It also offers one of the best airport lounge views (and bar views) we’ve seen in quite some time. We were very pleased to see this incorporated into the club’s design. With many lounges, the outdoor view is an afterthought – either ignored in a lounge’s design or simply unavailable by virtue of a lounge’s location within an airport.
Not the case here. United knocked it out of the park with aesthetics on this one – positioning the main bar parallel to floor to ceiling windows, presenting travelers with a full, unobstructed view of the airport’s runways as a backdrop. Night or day, this view is tough to beat for a preflight drink. For the boss experience, this is the go-to lounge at O’Hare.
These two clubs are a 10-15 minute walk apart but provided you aren’t pressed for time before your flight, we’d advise checking it out the club in Terminal 2/F even if it’s not near your gate. This club is worth the trip.
Star Alliance lounge options at Terminal 5 are less abundant. Travelers can choose from the SAS Lounge or the Swiss Lounge (Swissair). Both are in the terminal’s lone concourse – Concourse M.
The Swiss Lounge is notably cramped and is the subject of continually poor reviews, so we’d advise heading for the SAS Lounge.
The SAS Lounge offers a good business-friendly, modern look and similar food/drink experience to United, with a wide variety of snacks, but it doesn’t rank higher than the newly renovated United Clubs to warrant all the hassle of switching between terminals.
We’d advise keeping it simple and saving yourself any inconvenience. In Terminals 1/2/3 – head for the best United Clubs and in Terminal 5, head for SAS. You’ll get a very good lounge experience either way.
The United Club renovation at ORD is far from complete. We look forward to bringing you updates on two more clubs as they renovate/open over the course of the year.
* Note: United Club members can only access the Swiss Lounge or SAS Lounge when traveling on a same-day international flight.
Note: Bottom photo courtesy of TripAdvisor.