Southwest Airlines Inaugurates Chicago O’Hare Services

Southwest Airlines has officially inaugurated flights out of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD). With only a few flights out of the airport, the air carrier is expanding its portfolio out of Chicago, but it is not planning to turn O’Hare into a major hub. The first flights arrived and left O’Hare on Valentine’s Day.

Southwest Getty
Southwest Airlines has officially inaugurated services from O’Hare. Photo: Getty Images

Southwest Airlines inaugurates O’Hare flights

Southwest Airlines officially touched down at Chicago O’Hare on February 14th. The flight that arrived in O’Hare came from Southwest’s base at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). The first departure for Southwest out of the airport was off to Dallas Love Field (DAL), another major Southwest base.

Dave Harvey, VP of Southwest Business, offered the following statement on the new flights, as per a press release seen by Simple Flying:

“Making it easier to fly Southwest for business or leisure, we’re excited to bring more options to Chicago travelers, through a preferred airport for many of our existing customers in northern Chicagoland. These additional flights put the flexible policies and world-class hospitality our Midway Airport customers already enjoy, on the North Side and further the ease of flying Southwest without a longer commute.”

People waiting for a plane
Southwest’s first arrival into ORD caught the attention of many. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Chicago Department of Aviation commissioner Jamie L. Rhee added the following:

“I’m proud to welcome Southwest as the newest member of the O’Hare airport community. These new routes will reinforce O’Hare’s world-class connectivity and offer Chicagoans and visitors a wide array of choices and opportunities when non-essential travel can safely resume, all while complementing Southwest’s long-standing commitment to serve Chicago at Midway.”

Southwest has employed 11 people for its ground operations at ORD.

Southwest’s team had a little celebration at O’Hare. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Southwest’s new flights out of O’Hare

Using 143-seater Boeing 737-700s, Southwest will connect Chicago O’Hare to Baltimore (BWI), Dallas (DAL), Denver International Airport (DEN), Nashville International Airport (BNA), and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX).

In March, Southwest will add a Saturday-only service between O’Hare and Orlando International Airport (MCO). Those flights will start on March 13th.

Flights to Nashville, Baltimore, and Dallas will operate four times per day. Nonstops between Chicago and Denver will operate six times per day, while flights between Chicago and Phoenix will operate two times per day. All in all, Southwest will operate up to 20 daily departures out of O’Hare.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.

Southwest’s Chicago operations

Southwest’s largest base out of Chicago is at Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW). Southwest has flown out of Midway since 1985 with peak operations of up to 250 departures per day to 95 destinations.

Midway and O’Hare are under 20 miles apart from each other as the crow flies, but driving between the two can run around 25 to 30 miles depending on the route, and it could take up to an hour to get between the two, depending on traffic.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Getty
Southwest Airlines is on a huge expansion streak, and Chicago O’Hare is part of its plans. Photo: Getty Images

Midway is great for serving most of southern Chicago. However, out of northern parts of the city, like Evanston, Arlington Heights, Schaumburg, and other parts of Chicago, O’Hare is much more convenient.

O’Hare will not be a large connecting hub for Southwest. Rather, the airline’s operations will complement the carrier’s operations to Midway and provide more flexibility for Chicago-area travelers to choose which airport they want to fly out of.

From ORD, Southwest is flying to its bases where it can offer more connections. This is part of Southwest choosing to add new points to its network and connecting them to its bases, where it is a little safer to grow out of. This was part of a larger trend that pushed the total percentage of Southwest travelers flying nonstop down slightly in 2020 compared to 2019.

Are you glad to see Southwest Airlines come to Chicago O’Hare? Will you fly them to or from O’Hare? Let us know in the comments!