While it may not be the most pressing or confusing of issues at Chicago O’Hare Airport, there is one thing noticeably missing: Terminal 4.
Travelers at the airport will pass through Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 5, but they will never fly out of Terminal 4. Mainly because it doesn’t exist … anymore.
The phantom Terminal 4 did exist at one point in O’Hare airport’s history.
Up until 1985, O’Hare only had three terminals, named Terminals 1, 2 and 3. But that year, the airport decided to expand with a new international terminal. From 1985 to 1993, Terminal 4 was a temporary international terminal while O’Hare built a bigger, better and newer international terminal.
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However, the temporary Terminal 4 was tiny and foreign airlines complained about lack of operating space. So airport officials decided to open half of the new terminal to take some of the congestion out of the temporary one. During the summer of 1993, international flights arrived into the finished half of the new international terminal while still taking off from the temporary one.
To avoid any confusion between the two international terminals (they couldn’t call them both Terminal 4), the new terminal was named Terminal 5. When construction was finally complete and the departing international flights could also take off from the new terminal, the temporary one shut down.
But by that time, the name “Terminal 5” had already stuck.
Today, the remnants of Terminal 4 are visible as a bus shuttle center, attached to a short-term parking garage.
“Many times people ask me that question, ‘What happened to Terminal 4?’” a representative for O’Hare International Terminal told local news channel WGN9 in Chicago. “My answer to that is, ‘Does it really matter? As long as you know what terminal you’re going to, it doesn’t make much difference.’”