Chicago and O’Hare International Airport are as closely linked as New York and the Statue of Liberty. Indeed, there are those who joke that Chicago’s major function in the country is as the airport you have a stopover at on the way to someplace else. But if your starting point or destination is the Windy City, whether at O’Hare or Midway, you may need an airport shuttle before long. That’s where Continental Airport Express comes in. It’s the main airport shuttle service in town. But it’s not your only option for getting around. Savvy travelers will keep this in mind.
The company takes your reservation from an easy-to-use Web site, an unfailingly friendly telephone operator or a tiny kiosk in the baggage claim. Once you’ve you’re your reservation and your driver arrives, you find out that Airport Express deals in vans. Large vans. For a passenger or a family traveling alone, this is bliss. For people traveling in a large group, not so much; being packed into a van like sardines is not much fun. Just ask any group of Northwestern students returning to school after break; sitting three to a bench isn’t so easy once puberty’s come and gone, and being bussed from terminal to terminal picking up more and more people is irritating when you just got off an airplane, you’ve done nothing but wait for your landing and your taxiing and your bag and now all you want to do is get back to your dorm.
Drivers range from the courteous to the stressed; it is a little disconcerting to hear them speaking to their dispatcher in decidedly foreign tongues, and especially so if there is a problem and they do not know whether to pick up a reservation or move on. The good drivers are a pleasure, though, and you don’t feel at all reserved about handing over a decent tip. The ones who get your bag from the back with a smile. The service will certainly make you feel like you hired an aspen limousine. They will make you feel that you are being serviced well and right.
In short, Continental Airport Express offers a better service for the individual who just happens to be flying. While they have students, conventioneers, private organizations and other large traveling groups in mind, and special programs in place, those people might be better off hiring a taxicab or taking the El than using an airport shuttle service. If traveling with a friend, per head, a cab is actually of comparable price to Airport Express, and the el is cheaper than anything else without fail. (This assumes you travel light.) Depending on your own transportation rather than trying to coordinate with other moving bodies may prove more a headache than it is worth, and a service trying to load up on passengers before sending a van out puts cost-efficiency above your personal efficiency. There are easier routes to take. Skip the shuttle, see something instead.