I am often not able to plan ahead for 14 days, or even 7 days, on my trips from San Francisco to Chicago. Oftentimes, I am stuck between having to either paying more money or going a week later. I would also like to keep building my miles on American Airlines, if possible. I was very excited to find out that Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport advertises itself as an alternative to Chicago. This article discusses the viability of using Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport as an alternative.
The cost-savings. The airfare savings from San Francisco (SFO) to Milwaukee (MKE) for last minute flight is about $150 over the costs of flights from SFO to O’hare (ORD). The airfare for a last minute flight into O’hare is usually about $450 and the airport to Milwaukee is often under $300, but the flight to Milwaukee connects either at O’hare (ORD) or Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), which adds at least 2 hours each way. You cannot get off at O’hare or the airline will cancel the roundtrip portion of your ticket.
The train. The ride from Chicago to Milwaukee Airport on Amtrak, and vice-versa, is very pleasant. The Amtrak fare is $22 each way, and there are 7 evenly spaced trains that run every day between Union Station and Mitchell Airport. From Mitchell to Chicago Union Station, trains start at 6.26am and the last train leaves Mitchell for Chicago at 7.45pm. From Chicago to Mitchell, trains start at 6am and the last train is at 8.05pm. The ride is about 90-100 minutes each way. On the train, you can usually find an outlet to plug in your computer for the ride. You can also read a book, or just relax. There is usually one car where the passengers are not allowed to talk or use their cell phone.
The Shuttle and Milwaukee (MKE) Mitchell Airport. Once you arrive at Milwaukee (from Chicago), there is usually a shuttle waiting to take you to the airport. On the way from Milwaukee into Chicago, the wait for a shuttle is not too long, and if there are large signs as you leave the airport for the Amtrak shuttle. The Amtrak shuttle doubles as transportation for a parking lot. Milwaukee Airport is very pleasant, and security is very fast and efficient. You can get a lot of work done on a real desk at the cafe and plug into wall outlets while you are waiting for your flight.
You will probably have to spend a 4-6 more hours per trip, but most of those hours are productive if you plan well. Milwaukee is a good alternative if you have a few hours to spare and want to get in and out of Chicago on a specific day.