Gym, Food and Shower Pre-Security
ORD is one of the best USO locations in the country. There is a USO location outside security in in terminal 2 by the chapel. The entry point is well hidden next to the middle security checkpoint. Walk up the left side of the TSA line and go to the door on your left, and walk up the stairs to the hallway on top of the check in counters. You need to be AD, but I was able to enter as a dependent of AD back in the day. Not sure what the rules are now.
This lounge has your standard fare of food and non-alcoholic drinks. You also can have them call down to the Hilton Hotel in the basement for shower, pool and gym access. You must go to the USO first for them to call the hotel, otherwise you will be turned away at the gym. Bring toiletries from the USO down if you are going to take a shower since they only have body soap and towels at the Hilton. When you check in downstairs at the gym front desk, they will have you sign a book and give you towels and a nice gym locker.
Before TSA Pre-check was a thing, AD could use the lines reserved for Crew and Airport Staff which was much shorter and more exclusive. Then in 2013 this all went away when you could use the DOD ID number on the back of the CAC as the KTID number. However after the TSA shenanigans of the summer of 2016, too many people signed up for Pre-Check. Now that everyone has priority, no one has priority and everyone and their mother has Pre-check. What is worse is how hard they advertise the pre-check in the in flight magazines, again TSA Pre-Check is hardly an exclusive service anymore. I am going to try out my free Clear access once I get around to it.
I find the Pre-Check lines still to be unbearable, for those suckers that have to pay they still have only about an 80% chance of getting pre-check each time they fly according to my Veteran AA check in agent. It’s still slow and you have the routine basic bitch that sneaks in the line, those who didn’t get pre-check that day, or those that have pre-check bring their looser companions who don’t. When they make it up to the agent, they inevitably get pissed and embarrassed when they get turned away. I’m sorry guys, do your homework, finish the background check, and pay the $100 (or join the military) like the rest of us. And if you got selected that day for normal screening, please just slum it for that flight. You know they won’t let you pass the pre-check that flight. Just be lucky you haven’t been HaraSSSSed by the SSSScarlet letter.
I have had success in using Check Point 6 in terminal 3 at ORD to get the short line even without pre check. Initially I didn’t believe them, but the airport security said it was open to active duty. Sure enough when I walked up there they initially didn’t see a lanyard so they waved me off. However I got up there and showed my Military ID and let me use the empty line. Now what was funny is because I was flying Air Choice One to Decatur they didn’t have pre-check. I didn’t mind too much and out came the laptop and in I went into the back scatter X-ray machine. It was an experience beyond that of Pre-Check, and I had access to Terminals 1,2 and 3 going in check point 6. However for the international flights from terminal 5 (remember American and United international leave from their respective 1,2,3 terminals) you will not have access inside security and have to take the tram over.
Internal Lounges and Free Beer
I went to the United Lounge in Terminal 2 with an Air Choice One ticket and just my iPhone app with my United Club Card to get a pre flight beer. Sure enough they scanned my boarding pass and let me in. I got the United Club Credit card fee waived since I had it before I joined. If you get it after you joined then this is a good way to re-coop your $450 annual fee, this access is open for departing and arriving flights on any airlines. Very hit or miss to just use CAC to get in for free. The beer is very limited to Domestic Light beer for the free option.
When flying American Airlines you can get in departing or arriving with your orders, CAC and ticket on American Airlines. The orders thing is not really enforced and had no problems when the lounge was pretty empty. Haven’t tried when not flying American Airlines. Here you can get bottles of old style, go Cubbies! There is also a lot of ketogenic friendly American charcuterie.
When flying delta you have access to the Sky Club for free only for only yourself ($27 charge for guests, so just ditch them) with 2 credit cards. You just enter the club and flash your Platnum American Express or the Delta Reserve AmEx with your delta ticket. These cards are expensive at $450 each but lucky for you they are waived for active duty. Use this link to sign up for AmEx Platinum.
There is another USO inside security at the rotunda in terminal 3. Good food and drink but no boozes.
There are rumors of a lounge being built but no lease has been signed. They had a pop up even which is what happened at MIA and DFW before solid lounges open up. Who knows, but you would just show your AmEx Platnum Card to get in.