A Guide to Airports in the American Midwest

Chicago O'Hare International Airport

 Bruce Yuanyue Bi/Getty Images

There are 13 mid-to-large-sized international and domestic airports located in the Midwest section of the United States, serving destinations across the country and connections across the world.

Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport (CLE)

Cleveland Airport
 Steve Lyon / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Location: Cleveland, OH
  • Pros: Busiest airport in Ohio, meaning it has many routes on multiple airlines
  • Cons: Not many international flights
  • Distance to Downtown Cleveland: A 15-minute taxi will cost about $40. You can also take the Red Line train for $2.50—it's a 30-minute ride.

When it opened in 1925, Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport was the first municipal airport in the country, initially serving as a stop for U.S. Air Mail planes making coast-to-coast flights. Today it serves as a commercial airport—Ohio's busiest, with an average of 10 million passengers per year. Though it's not a hub for any airlines, it's a focus city for Frontier. Its international nonstop routes include cities in Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. Hopkins is known for its giant paper airplane sculptures in the underground walkway between Concourses C and D.

Akron-Canton Airport (CAK)

  • Location: North Canton, OH
  • Pros: Not crowded
  • Cons: Limited routes
  • Distance to Downtown Cleveland: An hour-long taxi will cost about $90. There are no convenient public transportation options. Most people drive their own cars or rent them at the airport.

The Akron-Canton Airport is about 50 miles south of Cleveland but has positioned itself as a lower-cost, more convenient option to Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport. Travelers can fly to hubs for American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines, where they can connect to flights around the world. Spirit also flies here, operating routes to Florida. The airport served just under 900,000 passengers in 2019, meaning it's far less crowded than the bustling Hopkins airport.

Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)

The underground passage connecting concourses at O'Hare's Airport Terminal One.
 Phil Roeder / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Location: Northwest Chicago, IL
  • Pros: Has over 200 nonstop routes to destinations across the world
  • Cons: Incredibly crowded; delays are common; traffic getting to the airport can be terrible
  • Distance to the Loop: Without traffic, a taxi ride will cost about $40 and take just under 30 minutes. But there is oftentimes heavy traffic, which can double the fare, as it's metered. You can also take the Blue Line train, which takes 50 minutes and only costs $2.50.

Chances are, if you're flying internationally from the Midwest, you'll be flying out of Chicago O'Hare International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world in terms of the number of flights (over 900,000 flights in 2018, flying over 83 million passengers). The airport is a hub for American and United and a focus city for Frontier and Spirit, however, nearly 50 airlines offer flights to nearly 200 nonstop destinations domestically and abroad.

Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)

Midway Airport
 David Ackerman / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Location: Southwest Chicago, IL
  • Pros: Much less crowded than O'Hare; can find good domestic flight deals on Southwest; closer to downtown Chicago
  • Cons: Fewer routes than O'Hare, especially international ones
  • Distance to the Loop: A 20-minute taxi ride will cost about $35. You can also take the Orange Line train, which takes the same amount of time but costs $2.50.

Chicago Midway International Airport is the city's second facility—a much smaller one than O'Hare—and is a focus city for Southwest Airlines, with other service provided by Delta, Porter, Allegiant and Volaris. The airport offers nonstop flights to 62 destinations across the U.S. and 8 international destinations, all in Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)

Unidentified passengers make their way pass the Delta ticket counter at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
Mike Simons/Getty Images
  • Location: Hebron, KY
  • Pros: Not too crowded; affordable flights on Frontier and Allegiant
  • Cons: Few international routes
  • Distance to Downtown Cincinnati: A 15-minute taxi will cost about $34. There's also a bus that costs 2, but it takes about 40 minutes.

Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport Cincinnati airport offers nonstop service to a few dozen cities across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. It's a focus city for Delta, Allegiant, and Frontier—there are often good airfare deals on the latter two, as they're budget airlines. In 2018, 8.9 million passengers flew through this airport. Interestingly, CVG is one of America's fastest-growing cargo hubs, operating as a hub for Amazon Air and DHL Aviation.

Dayton International Airport (DAY)

Dayton International Airport's terminal building, atop the parking garage.
Texas141/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0
  • Location: North Dayton, OH
  • Pros: "Easy to and Through," as the airport's motto goes
  • Cons: Limited routes
  • Distance to Downtown Dayton: A 15-minute taxi will cost about $30. A 30-minute bus ride will cost $2.

Dayton International Airport uses the tagline "Easy To and Through" to position itself as a less-crowded alternative to airports including Cincinnati, Columbus, and Indianapolis. The airport touts its location as near the “Crossroads of America,” with quick access to Interstates 70 and 75. DAY is served by Allegiant Air, American, Delta, and United Airlines.

John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH)

The departures hall at John Glenn Columbus International Airport.
John Glenn Columbus International Airport
  • Location: Northeast Columbus, OH
  • Pros: Not crowded
  • Cons: Limited routes
  • Distance to Downtown Columbus: A 10-minute taxi ride will cost about $25. There's also a public bus that costs $2.75 and takes anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes.

John Glenn Columbus International Airport offers flights to more than 40 airports across the United States, plus Toronto, Cancun, and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. The airport handles more than seven million passengers annually, making it one of the busiest facilities in the region. Formerly known as Port Columbus, the airport was renamed to John Glenn Columbus International Airport in early 2016 in honor of astronaut and four-term U.S. senator.

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)
 Walter Bibikow/Getty Images
  • Location: Romulus, MI
  • Pros: Excellent domestic and international routes on major carriers and budget ones; modern terminals with great facilities and entertainment
  • Cons: No train connections to downtown—there's only a bus
  • Distance to Downtown Detroit: A 25-minute taxi will cost about $45. There's a public bus that only costs $2, but it's far slower, taking about an hour to get downtown.

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport is one of the busiest airports in the U.S., serving over 36 million passengers in 2019. It's a hub for Delta, which utilizes the airport as a gateway to Asia and Europe. The airport is also a focus city for Spirit Airlines, offering numerous domestic routes at typically affordable rates. Passengers can browse a plethora of great dining, shopping, and arts experiences including the famous Light Tunnel with light displays choreographed to music between concourses.

Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE)

Public Art at General Mitchell International Airport
 ECP / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Location: South Milwaukee, WI
  • Pros: Not crowded; modern terminals
  • Cons: The only international routes are to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean
  • Distance to Downtown Milwaukee: A 15-minute taxi will cost about $25. There are also multiple bus routes, plus Amtrak—prices and times vary, but typically take about the same amount of time as a cab but are less than half of the taxi fare.

The General Mitchell International Airport served more than seven million passengers in 2018, offering nonstop flights to some 30 destinations across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean via seven major carriers. Named after U.S. Army Air Service General William (Billy) Mitchell, a Milwaukee native known as the father of the American Air Force, the airport offers several large displays of old military aircraft in its main halls and concourses. Many residents of Chicago use General Mitchell Airport as an alternative to O'Hare and Midway as it offers even easier travel, faster, and less of a hassle in general.

Indianapolis International Airport (IND)

The Civic Plaza of the Col. H. Weir Cook Terminal at the Indianapolis International Airport
Shawna Pierson/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0
  • Location: Southwest Indianapolis, IN
  • Pros: Not crowded
  • Cons: Limited international routes
  • Distance to Downtown Indianapolis: A 20-minute taxi ride will cost about $35. There's also a public bus that costs $1.75 and takes about 45 minutes, or an express bus that costs $10 and takes 20 to 30 minutes.

The Indianapolis International Airport served 9.4 million passengers in 2018, carrying them to 50 nonstop destinations on 10 major airlines (it's a hub for Allegiant). In 2008, the Colonel Harvey Weir Cook Terminal, a new passenger terminal costing over $1 billion to build, opened to accommodate the increase in demand for passenger transport. This new terminal helped facilitate the process of international flights and customs.

Kansas City International Airport (MCI)

Kansas City International Airport
Pacman5/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0
  • Location: Northwest Kansas City, MO
  • Pros: Not crowded
  • Cons: Relatively limited international routes
  • Distance to Downtown Kansas City: A 25-minute taxi ride will cost about $50. There's a public bus, too—rides take about 45 minutes and cost $1.50.

In 2019, more than 11 million people flew through Kansas City International airport aboard flights operated by 12 airlines to over 50 nonstop destinations. Though its international routes are limited, there is service to Canada and Mexico.

St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL)

St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL)
Barry Winiker /Getty images
  • Location: Northwest St. Louis, MO
  • Pros: Numerous affordable flights on Southwest
  • Cons: Limited international routes; can get crowded
  • Distance to Downtown St. Louis: A 25-minute taxi will cost about $40. There's also a train that takes about 30 minutes and costs $2.50.

The Lambert-St. Louis International Airport served nearly 15.9 million passengers in 2019, making the airport the busiest in the state of Missouri. This is the primary airport serving the St. Louis area, offering nonstop flights to cities across America, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. It's a focus city for Southwest, too, so you'll almost always be able to find an affordable flight here.

Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP)

Glass Art at Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport
 webhishek / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Location: South Minneapolis, MN
  • Pros: Great routes, thanks in part to Delta having a hub here
  • Cons: Can get crowded
  • Distance to Central Minneapolis: A 25-minute taxi costs about $40. There's also a light rail that takes about 30 minutes and costs between $2 and $2.50 depending on the time of day.

Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport was the hometown hub of Northwest Airlines before it merged with Delta in 2008—the latter airline now uses it as a hub. The airport is served by a total of 18 airlines that handled 38 million passengers in 2018. Routes from MSP include long-haul flights to Asia and Europe, plus numerous domestic destinations.

Article Sources
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  1. Cleveland Airport. "Facts & Figures | Cleveland Hopkins Airport." Retrieved Jan 20, 2021.

  2. Chicago Tribune. "O'Hare is once again the nation's busiest airport in terms of total flights." Retrieved Jan 20, 2021.

  3. CVG Airport. "CVG experiences record-breaking year: 2018 highlights." Retrieved Jan 20, 2021

  4. CVG Airport. "APEX Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport." Retrieved Jan 20, 2021.

  5. Columbus Airports. "John Glenn International Airport." Retrieved Jan 20, 2021.

  6. USA Today. "Ohio's Columbus Airport renamed for astronaut John Glenn." Retrieved Jan 20, 2021.

  7. Metro Airport. "Detroit Metropolitan Airport reaches record high numbers in 2019." Retrieved Jan 20, 2021.

  8. Biz Journals. "Mitchell breaks 7 million passengers in 2018." Jan 20, 2021.

  9. Ind.com. "Indy Airport Sees Highest Passenger Traffic in First Six months of 2019." Retrieved Jan 20, 2021.

  10. Fly KCI. "Kansas City International Airport Has Third Busiest Year in its History." Retrieved Jan 20, 2021.

  11. Fly STL. "STL Airport Records 5th Straight year of Passenger Growth." Retrieved Jan 20, 2021.

  12. MSP. "About MSP Airport." Retrieved Jan 20, 2021.

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