United Passenger Stuck At Chicago O’Hare Has Epic Overnight Adventure

One man lived inside Chicago O’Hare for three months. Like a Richard Linklater film though, Allison Robicelli had just one night, and she made the most of it.

Sometimes passengers who misconnect get put up in a hotel by their airline, which can be worse than sleeping in the airport. But probably not worse than sleeping inside the O’Hare airport. So Robicelli stayed up all night. And she explored.

She rode the moving walkway back and forth. And back and forth. And back and forth. There really should be a plaque telling the secret backstory for that tunnel which connect the United concourses.

Eventually she starts to get loopy.

Eventually she made it to Baltimore the next morning, after McDonalds had opened (she hoped to have a McRib for breakfast). She did photo shoots along the way, and registered her preferences across the different airport concourses. She likes terminal 3 best. But there’s a huge difference between O’Hare during the day when you have access to Tortas Frontera and overnight when you don’t.

She didn’t appear to discover Al Capone’s connection to the O’Hare airport while she was there, even though it’s memorialized airside in the area connecting terminals 1 and 2.

There are really two ways to play it when you get stuck at the airport overnight.

  1. Make sure you bought your ticket with a credit card that offers trip delay coverage and bill them for your hotel overnight, transportation and meals. At O’Hare the Hilton is connected and an easy walk.

  2. Live your best life. One passenger stuck overnight at the airport made a music video.

The first strategy means comfort and sleep, the second means going viral in social media.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’ve done this four times in my life.

    1) I had a dreaded overnight connection in Los Angeles. Arrived on one of the last Delta flights of the night and departed at like 6 am. I stayed in the Sky Club until it closed after midnight and then slept behind the gatehouse desk of my morning flight. Thankfully, nobody stole my stuff.

    2) Missed my connecting flight to London in Boston, which was one of the last flights of the night. Delta offered a voucher for the hotel, but it was so far from the airport that I didn’t take them up it. Slept in the gate area until 1 or 2 a.m. when security kicked me out. Apparently, airside at Logan closes (or at the time, closed) and passengers weren’t allowed to stay overnight. I ended up sleeping on a baggage claim belt, checking the first flight of the day to New York and then a daytime flight to London.

    3) I did a mileage run to Gothenburg , Sweden, via Amsterdam. Spent the day in Gothenburg and then went to the airport after dinner around 9 pm on the check-in side of security. There was a Volvo car display. The car was unlocked. I slept in the car before taking the first flight to Amsterdam.

    4) I did another mileage to Manila via Tokyo-Narita when Delta did all those intra-Asia flights. Manila’s airport is 24/7. I ended up getting massages (legit massages) back to back until about midnight when I planked down in a lounge that was 24/7. I think it was a Priority Pass lounge.

  2. I guess if you’re broke. I go to the Hilton in the airport and get a great night’s sleep. Really nice (for a hotel) gym there too. You can get day passes if you’re not staying in the hotel.

    My favorite airport hotel.

  3. Reminds me of 3/1965. I missed a late night connection on North Central Airlines DC-3 ORD – LSE. It was less exciting in the smaller terminal of those days. Lucky you!

  4. Given a tough situation, her positivity and sense of humor were real benefits for both herself and for her readers. Before I carried credit card insurance I had spent many nights trying to sleep in airports with public security announcements blasting to no one but myself. I wish I had matched her level of self-created enjoyment.

  5. I’ve found that, funnily enough, the Hilton tends to be booked out whenever weather problems cause large numbers of people to get stuck overnight.

  6. Will someone explain this Terminal 2 passageway to the E concourse?

    Somebody SAY SOMETHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. One night in January 2018 we were flying IAD-SFO-SMF. The airplane IAD-SFO was coming from IAH and there was a bad ice storm in Houston, so it got to Dulles late and left for San Francisco late. We got to SFO a bit after midnight and the 10:30 pm flight to SMF had left and that was the last one. Since the delay was due to weather United did not offer a hotel, but we did get an amenity kit (water bottle with toothbrush/toothpaste/shaver/deodorant inside). We slept on the floor near gate 77 until the United Club opened at 5:00 am, then went in and had breakfast before taking the 6:30 am flight to SMF. The agent inside the United Club was extremely helpful, as was the customer service agent at SFO the night before.

    On the plane itself we had Economy Plus seats but there were few people other than those in first class so we were asked to sit in the back (we could each have had our own row) for weight and balance considerations. Being a former pilot myself (small planes) I understood that. The gate agent at Dulles said we’d get “considerations” (free stuff) once on board but apparently no one told the flight attendants that.

  8. Can I be the Debbie Downer? The guy that got kicked out of Boston “airside” area gates (and several airports do same; San Diego, Austin, Sacramento, San Antonio, etc.) probably do so, precisely to PREVENT people who like to “explore” around. I’m just saying.

  9. OH and BTW…I kinda look like the terrorists of 9-11, so if I’m stuck at an airport overnight, the last thing I want is to be seen by Security as someone who is “exploring around”.
    (Just a different “perspective”…lol).

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