Being less than 80 miles from Chicago O’Hare, sometimes I use it as my home airport. For domestic travel, I do my best to avoid it, since to get there I usually have to take my least favorite plane, the CRJ-200, on often delayed/cancelled flights. Otherwise, drive and deal with unpredictable traffic and expensive parking. So I’m most often departing from Milwaukee. For international trips, and especially award travel, I tend to depart from O’Hare since obviously there are many more options. Rather than park my car for weeks on end, for this trip I took a bus which dropped me off at the door of O’Hare Terminal 5.
O’Hare Terminal 5 has improved…
The first flight of my trip is Cathay Pacific First Class to Hong Kong. I took this flight once before, back in 2012. I was excited to try it again, and see how things have changed. Before my trip, I was uncertain of how I wanted to spend my time before departure. Knowing the mostly poor lounge options in Terminal 5, I had ideas of going through security in Terminal 3. There I could visit the AA Flagship Lounge, and then take the airside shuttle to Terminal 5. This would also allow me to use real PreCheck instead of “expedited” security in T5. With checked bags, this would be a hassle, especially since the ATS train between terminals is out of service until late 2019. Ultimately, I just went directly to Terminal 5, checked my bags, and then went airside. With a few hours before my flight it wasn’t that long to wait, and thankfully, it took only 5 minutes or so to clear security now that Cathay Pacific is part of PreCheck.
Lounge options before departure
While checking in, the agent showed me the invitation to the KLM/Air France lounge. I’ve been here before, and it is fine, but nothing special, and not worth any extra time. The agent suggested I should try to go to the British Airways Lounge instead. One would think this is the lounge Cathay passengers would use due to oneworld lounge agreements, but apparently not. Back in 2012, Cathay used the Swiss Lounge for their first class passengers. Swiss no longer has a separate First Class Lounge. My first stop was the BA First Class lounge, where I should have access, both due to my emerald status and the fact that I was departing in First Class. There was already a line a few minutes after the lounge was supposed to open (at 2pm). Instead of waiting, I went across the hall to Frontera Tortas.
Terminal 5 Lounges for Cathay Pacific flyers
After my torta, I tried again at the BA lounge, noticing others were inside. I went in, and no one was at the desk. Another guest told me no one was there. Apparently they were shorthanded that day. Eventually an agent came in, and welcomed everyone. I showed her my mobile boarding pass, and she welcomed me in. She later said she’d print me a paper boarding pass, and then I clarified with her that I was on Cathay, not BA. She mentioned I shouldn’t have access, but due would let me stay. My flight was delayed about an hour, so I had more time to spend there than I would otherwise. The lounge is small, but it was never crowded while I was there.
Food is nothing special, although for BA First flyers, there is a separate dining area which offers full meal service. Drinks are self pour, and not super premium, but not bad either, especially for this terminal. My favorite part of the lounge was the tarmac views. I enjoyed a nice place to relax before my flight, and work on my laptop before 15+ hours of no wifi on board my flight to Hong Kong.
While by the book, I should have access to this lounge, seemingly BA is restricting access to only their own passengers. I lucked out and got an arguably nicer and certainly more private lounge before my flight. There are Priority Pass lounges in O’Hare Terminal 5 as well, KLM/AF is one along with the Swissport lounge. Often crowded, neither are worth extra time nor much effort to visit, although there is some food an drink. Options in terminal are likely better for food, but not free.
A little more work, and some more views out the window, soon it was time to head to the gate for my delayed departure. A highlight of my visit, was seeing the retro BOAC painted 747 pull up:
Next up Cathay Pacific First Class to Hong Kong.