The Chicago O’Hare T3-T5 Shuttle is a Giant Cluster

Chicago O’Hare started offering a bus between terminal 3 and terminal 5. In theory this should save a lot of time for American Airlines passengers in terminal 3 transferring to international airlines departing terminal 5. (United passengers from terminal 1 could walk over to terminal 3 to take the bus if they wished.)

The goal is not to have to leave security, take the train to terminal 5, and then re-clear security. Unfortunately the bus may not be a great time saver.

The bus was supposed to run from 8:30 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. at least that’s how it was announced. Except that it doesn’t. (The bus was also announced as only being available in spring, summer and fall.)

I arrived at O’Hare in a low H gate and walked over to gate K20 (it also runs from G17). I arrived at 10:25 am the sign says it begins for the day at 10:30 a.m…. not 8:30 a.m.

However 10:30 a.m. turns out to be ‘when we start checking people in’ and I was told at 10:35 a.m. that “the bus should be here in 20-30 minutes, there is no set time.”

They require passport and either a boarding pass or an itinerary for a terminal 5 flight to use the shuttle. So there’s no taking the shuttle over to use a Priority Pass lounge in terminal 5 (they aren’t great anyway) and returning to a terminal 3 flight.

The bus arrived at 10:52 a.m. They check your boarding pass, which had been stamped at check-in, as you go down stairs to the bus. And it is checked again at the bottom of the stairs as you enter the bus. That’s 3 boarding pass checks.

There is nowhere on the bus to store luggage. So it is just what you can carry. That was a problem given the families with multiple carry on bags and strollers.

There were passengers that had only checked bags to O’Hare on their inbound flight, and hadn’t gone to pick those up before heading to terminal 5. The staff asked about this, and directed passengers to go to baggage claim to pick up their checked bags and then take the train to terminal 5.

We arrived at terminal 5 at 11:05 a.m. And I regretted not just taking the train and reclearing security since the process took 40 minutes. Of course at other times you may hit the shuttle better than I did.

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