Review: SAS Lounge Chicago Airport (ORD)

Review: SAS Lounge Chicago Airport (ORD)

NAME: SAS Lounge
Airport: ORD
DATE: January 2023
REVIEW RATING:
BEN SAYS: While the SAS Lounge Chicago has modern decor and nice views, it's tiny and doesn't even have bathrooms. I'd recommend spending as little time here as possible.
27

To kick off my whirlwind Aeroplan adventure, I flew Austrian Airlines business class from Chicago to Vienna. Austrian, and most Star Alliance airlines departing from Terminal 5, use the SAS Lounge as their contract lounge at Chicago O’Hare Airport.

On the plus side, the SAS Lounge Chicago has modern Scandinavian decor, great airplane views, and lots of natural light (well, as much natural light as one can expect in Chicago in January).

Unfortunately other than that, the lounge sucks — it’s tiny (way too small for the number of passengers it’s supposed to accommodate), and it doesn’t even have bathrooms. But that’s not SAS’ fault. With the exception of Delta’s new presence there, Terminal 5 at Chicago has to be the worst international terminal in the country.

The lounge situation is uniformly horrible, and that’s not the fault of airlines, as there’s simply not enough available lounge space, so airlines have nowhere to expand to. I previously wrote about the Swissport Lounge Chicago, which I consider to be the worst lounge in the United States. Now let’s take a look at the SAS Lounge (which, in fairness, is like the Lufthansa First Class Terminal by comparison).

SAS Lounge Chicago location

The SAS Lounge Chicago is located in Terminal 5, by gates M19-20. After clearing security, turn left and walk down the main terminal corridor.

Chicago O’Hare Terminal 5

After walking for a couple of minutes, you’ll see the entrance to the SAS Lounge on the right.

SAS Lounge Chicago entrance

SAS Lounge Chicago hours

Officially the SAS Lounge Chicago is currently open daily from 12:30PM, until 30 minutes before the last scheduled SAS flight. However, since the lounge is used as a contract lounge by other airlines, you can expect that it remains open until shortly before those flights depart, in situations where that’s later than the SAS flight.

SAS Lounge Chicago hours

SAS Lounge Chicago entry requirements

The SAS Lounge Chicago is a standard Star Alliance lounge, open to departing Star Alliance business class passengers, as well as Star Alliance Gold members traveling in a cabin other than business class. Business class passengers can’t bring any guests, while Star Alliance Gold members can bring one guest.

The SAS Lounge is the only Star Alliance lounge located in Chicago O’Hare Terminal 5, so there are quite a few airlines that use this lounge for their passengers. While Lufthansa and United don’t depart from this terminal, Air India, Asiana, Austrian, EVA Air, LOT Polish, SAS, SWISS, TAP Air Portugal, and Turkish, all do depart from this terminal.

Some of those airlines proactively send their passengers to this lounge, while in some cases they use other contract lounges. However, if you are an eligible Star Alliance passenger, you should be able to use this lounge even if you don’t technically receive an invitation for it.

The SAS Lounge Chicago doesn’t belong to Priority Pass.

SAS Lounge Chicago seating & layout

The SAS Lounge Chicago is just 2,000 square feet, with seating for 117 guests. Not only is the lounge tiny, but that’s an incredibly high ratio of guests to square feet (~17 square feet per guest — yow!). Just as a point of comparison, the United Club Newark that opened recently is 30,000 square feet, with seating for 500 guests. That’s roughly four times as much space per guest.

The SAS Lounge Chicago was renovated in 2017, and features pretty brand standard SAS decor, similar to what you’ll find at the carrier’s lounges in the Nordics. That’s to say that the design is pretty minimalist, modern, and non-offensive.

The lounge is just one room. When you enter the lounge and look right, there are seats arranged in rows facing one another, as well as a bench by the wall with some stools to sit on.

SAS Lounge Chicago seating
SAS Lounge Chicago seating
SAS Lounge Chicago seating

In the back of the lounge is a communal table, plus a some high-top seating by the window.

SAS Lounge Chicago seating
SAS Lounge Chicago seating

Then inside the lounge and to the left are three circular tables each seating eight or so people.

SAS Lounge Chicago seating
SAS Lounge Chicago seating

Lastly, there’s another row of seats facing the windows here as well.

SAS Lounge Chicago seating

While there are outlets near some seats, a vast majority of seats don’t have them, so don’t expect you’ll be able to easily charge your electronics.

In the back of the lounge there’s an SAS A340 model aircraft. Ironically SAS doesn’t fly A340s anymore. The lounge is so small that there’s not really any storage space, so you can see boxes of drinks stacked up in the corner.

SAS Lounge Chicago model plane

The lounge has lovely views of the gates, taxiways, and runways, so if you like plane spotting, be sure to grab a seat near the windows.

SAS Lounge Chicago views

The lounge looks perfectly nice, though the catch is that you can expect that when it’s open, almost every seat is going to be taken. 117 seats isn’t nearly enough to handle all the Star Alliance demand among premium passengers. It’s not just the absolute capacity, but also the space per passenger.

After being in this lounge briefly, I just decided to go sit in an empty gate area. In terms of what I value in airport lounges, a quiet and relaxing ambiance is typically the most important, and this lounge definitely doesn’t deliver that.

My makeshift “lounge” during my layover

SAS Lounge Chicago food & drinks

The SAS Lounge Chicago has a perfectly good selection of food & drinks, all via a self-serve buffet.

SAS Lounge Chicago buffet
SAS Lounge Chicago buffet

There’s one part of the buffet with fresh(ish) items, including chicken and turkey sandwiches, and a salad bar with spring mix, pasta salad, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, olives, and roasted corn.

SAS Lounge Chicago food selection
SAS Lounge Chicago food menu

There are also some crackers, chips, snack mix, cookies, instant noodles, whole fruit, and a variety of condiments.

SAS Lounge Chicago food selection
SAS Lounge Chicago snacks
SAS Lounge Chicago food & drink selection
SAS Lounge Chicago buffet

As far as drinks go, there’s a selection of beer, wine, and liquor. There are also soft drinks, juice, water, an espresso machine, and tea. The selection is decent, but don’t get too excited.

SAS Lounge Chicago drink selection
SAS Lounge Chicago drink selection
SAS Lounge Chicago coffee & tea selection

SAS Lounge Chicago bathrooms & showers

The SAS Lounge Chicago doesn’t have bathrooms or showers. If you want to use the bathroom, you’ll have to go into the terminal. Usually access to a clean bathroom is a valuable amenity of a lounge, though that’s not offered here.

While this is a negative to the guest experience, I also can’t really blame SAS here. The lounge is tiny, and the airline got the space that it could.

Bottom line

The SAS Lounge Chicago has nice views and pleasant decor, but it’s way too small for the number of passengers it’s supposed to handle, and doesn’t even have bathrooms. If you’re looking for food and drinks and are eligible for access, then it’s worth visiting. However, personally I’d rather just go sit in an empty gate area after that.

This lounge offers a pretty bad experience, though I don’t blame the airline for that — O’Hare Terminal 5 is simply awful (except Delta’s setup), and airlines are so limited in terms of lounge space.

If you’ve visited the SAS Lounge Chicago, what was your experience like?

Conversations (27)
The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
Type your response here.

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Anyone can comment, and your email address will not be published. Register to save your unique username and earn special OMAAT reputation perks!

  1. Dora Guest

    The terminal is terrible the lauge just awful

  2. John Guest

    I find Delta in T5 fantastic, the new Sky Club is perfect.

  3. Will Guest

    I always go to Terminal 2 United Polaris lounge after checking in my luggage for international business flight. The catch is that you have to go through security check TWICE unless you are flying United international flight flying out from Terminal 2, most Star Alliance partners fly out from Terminal 5. Does it worth the effort and time? If you have Global Entry and CLEAR, probably worth the effort. If not, don't bother with the...

    I always go to Terminal 2 United Polaris lounge after checking in my luggage for international business flight. The catch is that you have to go through security check TWICE unless you are flying United international flight flying out from Terminal 2, most Star Alliance partners fly out from Terminal 5. Does it worth the effort and time? If you have Global Entry and CLEAR, probably worth the effort. If not, don't bother with the long line lol. It took me about 30 mins to go from Terminal 5 to terminal 2 with GE and CLEAR and took a long walkaway and elevators to Polaris lounge. And another 30 mins to go through another security check back in Terminal 5. Without GE and CLEAR, I would guess it would take an hour one-way so definitely not worth the effort.

    All in all, O'Hare is THE WORST INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT I've ever been. Almost made me wants to move away from Midwest lmao

  4. GGC New Member

    Ben, you say SAS lounge is the only Star lounge out of ORD T5, wasn't aware of LX lounge being permanently closed. Would be nice for LX and OS to get gates on T1 for departures like LH does

    1. ORD_Is_My_Second_Home Member

      We'll have to wait for the Global Terminal to open for that. It's designed for alliances to group together.

  5. tda1986 Member

    "If you’re looking for food and drinks and are eligible for access, then it’s worth visiting. "

    No, it's really not. I literally did an about-face the moment I got in the door back in November before my own ORD-VIE flight. Also, Tortas Frontera--possibly the best airport terminal food in the country--is right outside the lounge.

    1. Santos Guest

      "possibly the best airport terminal food in the country"

      100%. Why can't Rick Bayless open Tortas Frontera in other cities and outside of ORD? He's opened 2 locations of Tortazo here in NYC and it's pretty damn mediocre, comparatively. Meanwhile, I will route via ORD whenever possible just for those tortas!

  6. Austin New Member

    One important thing to note about access (and not for good reason in ORD) - SAS Plus (their Premium Economy cabin) also grants SAS lounge access. I had access departing ORD to ARN back in 2018 and was surprised, but it was still insanely crowded back then.

  7. ORD_Is_My_Second_Home Member

    As others have implied, if I flew ORD-VIE, I'd take LH to FRA and transfer to Austrian, just to avoid Terminal 5 at ORD. The place is like a distillation of depression. It was the last major international terminal built prior to lounges becoming a "thing" and the advent of the big transcontinental aircraft. It is definitely not suited for purpose. When all of the Delta fanboys became excited about moving there last year, I...

    As others have implied, if I flew ORD-VIE, I'd take LH to FRA and transfer to Austrian, just to avoid Terminal 5 at ORD. The place is like a distillation of depression. It was the last major international terminal built prior to lounges becoming a "thing" and the advent of the big transcontinental aircraft. It is definitely not suited for purpose. When all of the Delta fanboys became excited about moving there last year, I told them that they'd miss Terminal 2. A supposedly good lounge (which is the de facto SkyTeam lounge) doesn't make up for having to enter the ninth circle of Hell that is Terminal 5.

  8. Grey Diamond

    I mean, the crowding problem must have a fair amount to do with the fact that the Swiss lounge was forced to close due to the ORD renovation work. And I always enjoyed the Swiss lounge. Before the Polaris lounge, it was my favourite at ORD.
    But the real solution is to just connect T5 to the rest of the airport airside.

  9. wpr8e Guest

    This lounge is still miles better than the Air Canada lounge in Paris CDG. Can't wait for United to move back to T1.

    1. Icarus Guest

      CDG t1 is open, along with the new star alliance satellite and lounge. Air Canada relocated on 11 January.

    2. Icarus Guest

      And United moved back on 9th

  10. Robert D Guest

    This was the very first lounge I ever visited, prior to boarding my very first business class flight, in an SAS angle-flat seat. Really thought I was living high on the hog. This was 2013, so not really all that long ago. Great memories of that trip.

  11. Ginny Guest

    Well these comments have confirmed my thought to just tram to the United lounges and do security twice. Thanks everyone!

  12. Julia Guest

    Not that it’s a decent lounge itself (in fact, it could be classified as worse than the SAS lounge) but for Star Alliance passengers, has Swiss re-opened it’s lounge at ORD?

  13. Mark F Guest

    I visited there in October. It was completely packed and half the people were coughing. I didn't spend much time there. I was flying Swiss but on a United ticket, so I spent most of the day at the Polaris Lounge (I had a long layover) and then took the train over and checked in. I didn't find a long line at security on the far left of the ticketing area, and the lounge is...

    I visited there in October. It was completely packed and half the people were coughing. I didn't spend much time there. I was flying Swiss but on a United ticket, so I spent most of the day at the Polaris Lounge (I had a long layover) and then took the train over and checked in. I didn't find a long line at security on the far left of the ticketing area, and the lounge is literally across the hall from the security point.

    The new Delta extension had just opened but there were no gates in use yet, so while the gate Swiss uses is in a dark hallway, it was nice to walk down to the bright Delta area and sit there.

    Spend as much time in the Polaris lounge in the other terminal as you can and are comfortable with, and then scoot on over to Terminal E. And skip this lounge.

  14. J J Guest

    I couldn't agree more about the embarrassment that is ORD T5 - especially as an international arriving passenger. It reminds me of newark in 1995.

    1. Icarus Guest

      The new Delta SkyClub, also used by Air France and KLM is top notch. T5 also has a new extension, however the airside area is very narrow.

    2. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

      Yeah. I've been there three times. Every time crowded. I can't believe how busy it is because I never thought Delta had a huge customer base in Chicago given (a) how small the old O'Hare Sky Club was and (b) Delta also has a good number of flights out of Midway.

      When flying in and out of Chicago on Delta as a diamond, always check same-day change since O'Hare and Midway are co-terminus.

    3. TravelinWilly Diamond

      Funnily enough ORD T5 opened in 1993, so maybe design queues were taken from EWR?

      Hopefully the T5 expansion can help with some of these issues.

      ord21.com/signature_projects/Pages/Terminal-5.aspx

    4. Donna Diamond

      Worse, T5 reminds me of Newark circa 1985.

  15. Klaus Guest

    The most upsetting part about the SAS Lounge is that you know you would be entitled to access the Polaris Lounge in the other terminal but you decided against it because of the long TSA lines.

    For ORD i actually prefer flying UA or LH over SK, OS or LX.

  16. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

    Look at the chairs or seats. Most of them have NO TABLE for food and drinks. Let alone a computer. How on earth is anyone supposed to sit down and actually have a drink?

    And where is the space for bags. I can't imagine this is kosher with the fire code. Bags easily obstruct all of the paths to and from the seating area, which is a big violation of fire codes.

  17. dillpickles Member

    I appreciate these ORD reviews, and feel like I could have written up these exact same thoughts. It's fortunate that most airlines seem to be pushing the Swissport lounge, which is one of the few reasons this lounge has any open seats at all. Was flying J on a TK flight a little while back, saw this lounge and the lounge agents tried sending me over to the Swissport lounge "That's for TK flights". I...

    I appreciate these ORD reviews, and feel like I could have written up these exact same thoughts. It's fortunate that most airlines seem to be pushing the Swissport lounge, which is one of the few reasons this lounge has any open seats at all. Was flying J on a TK flight a little while back, saw this lounge and the lounge agents tried sending me over to the Swissport lounge "That's for TK flights". I showed them the ticket again, and they begrudgingly let me in. I'm sure a lot of people just turn back around, but that Swissport lounge is miserable. It's worse than US hotel lounges, and that says alot.

  18. Dan Guest

    While you wrote about the Swissport lounge, you notably did not provide a rating. How many stars would that one get?

    1. dillpickles Member

      He can't go below 0 stars, maybe that's why.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

tda1986 Member

"If you’re looking for food and drinks and are eligible for access, then it’s worth visiting. " No, it's really not. I literally did an about-face the moment I got in the door back in November before my own ORD-VIE flight. Also, Tortas Frontera--possibly the best airport terminal food in the country--is right outside the lounge.

3
Santos Guest

"possibly the best airport terminal food in the country" 100%. Why can't Rick Bayless open Tortas Frontera in other cities and outside of ORD? He's opened 2 locations of Tortazo here in NYC and it's pretty damn mediocre, comparatively. Meanwhile, I will route via ORD whenever possible just for those tortas!

2
dillpickles Member

He can't go below 0 stars, maybe that's why.

2
Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
4,988,713 Miles Traveled

29,627,500 Words Written

32,815 Posts Published