Kenya Trip Report Part 3 – A Brief Aside About O’Hare T5

Chicago skyline in the distance from ORD

In our last segment, three of us were enjoying the Flagship Lounge, but we left plenty of time to make the journey to Terminal 5. We left the Flagship Lounge around 4:45pm and met up with our younger daughter as she was dropped off outside Terminal 3. We all took the train to Terminal 5 and checked in with Qatar Airways to get our new boarding passes.

The contract rep (Swissport) checked our visas and vaccine cards again. She seemed a bit clueless about the process to add our pre-check numbers to the boarding passes and had to ask for help. In the end, she gave us our new boarding passes and thanks to the new presence of Delta in Terminal 5, we were able to use Clear and PreCheck to sail through security.

Once on the other side, things took a turn for the worse. The older side of Terminal 5 is cramped, poorly designed and in terrible shape. I realize it will be torn down and replaced in a few years, but that cannot come soon enough.

We were at the gate about 10 minutes before scheduled boarding for our flight so we waited by the Priority Boarding sign at the Qatar Airways gate. Of course, there were no available seats even if we wanted to sit.

I happened to glance at our boarding passes and realized that my seat and my wife’s seat were not the ones I had selected. When I selected seats, I put us in the “quad” arrangement so that we could all have dinner together and my wife and I could be in the double-bed seats. It’s a unique attribute of Qsuites to all sit together, close the doors and make our own private space.

I went to the gate agent to see why things had been switched. It turned out (after several radio calls back and forth) that one of our seats was broken and would not recline so they had moved us to adjacent aisle seats in the row ahead. I asked if we could at least sit in the quad for dinner together and they told me I would have to ask on board. What a bummer! I had booked these seats 11 months ahead of time. Obviously, this kind of thing is out of anyone’s control so I just hoped we could have dinner in the quad and at least get that taste of the quad despite the issue.

The boarding time on our boarding passes came and went. The heaving mass of humanity (and approximately 73 wheelchairs) at the gate crowded around as the crew waited to board as well. We were then (not politely) asked to line up in a different area even though many of us had been standing in the same spot for 45 minutes by this point.

Finally, around 6:30pm, the crew and some of the wheelchairs were allowed to board. Then we waited some more. Then some more wheelchairs were allowed to board.

Our scheduled departure time came and went. The gate agents seemed completely clueless about what was causing the delay. The weather was fine (for Chicago in December). The plane had arrived on time. The crew had been all ready to board well ahead of the passengers.

I found out later there was some delay with baggage handling and loading which caused us to be late. This is apparently a normal occurrence in Terminal 5 as the Air France flight at the adjacent gate also was very late leaving, and the Qatar Airways purser told me that Chicago was consistently their worst US airport for delays due to airport staff.

Finally, around 7pm, we were able to board the flight, but we were still a long time away from pushback. I started to get worried about our scheduled 1 hour 35 minute connection in Doha. Unfortunately, O’Hare was the only airport that I could find four business class award seats available for our dates on Qatar Airways, otherwise I would have avoided it.

Try and avoid making domestic to international connections at O’Hare. I can only guess that the arrivals process is equally chaotic. Terminal 5 (non-Delta side) is a disaster and frankly, not worthy of a major international airport.

Up Next: Qatar Airways 777 QSuites ORD-DOH Review

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