A computer-generated look at what The Club MDW may look like in late 2024. –Supplied image

A computer-generated look at what The Club MDW may look like in late 2024. –Supplied image

Passenger lounge coming to Midway

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But ‘first’ claim won’t fly with some

By Tim Hadac

Complaints about food and beverage concessions at Midway International Airport are nothing new, but a claim made by the Johnson Administration last week generated a new bit of grumbling from some Southwest Side history buffs and other aviation fans.

In a prepared statement released on Sept. 27, Mayor Brandon Johnson and the Chicago Department of Aviation announced, “For the first time in the airport’s 95-year history, Midway International Airport will offer a lounge to its customers…”

At least a few hands were heard slapping foreheads in the area.

“The first? The first?” asked 72-year-old William Demma. “Have they never heard of the Cloud Room? My mother worked there for years, and I’ve got pictures to prove it.”

The Cloud Room was one of several examples mentioned by Midway historians and neighborhood old-timers. The Cloud Room was launched to acclaim in 1948 with a reception led by Mayor Martin Kennelly and which included aviation VIPs from around the nation. It was owned and operated by Marshall Field & Co. and served as a high-end restaurant and lounge that offered passengers and others a second-story, up-close view of America’s top passenger airplanes at what was then the world’s busiest airport.

Word of last week’s announcement generated a 1950s photo of a passenger lounge and details of a 1930s restaurant/lounge on airport property (at about 62nd and Cicero).

The new lounge, dubbed The Club MDW, is planned to open in about a year. It will be located in the airport’s Central Market at the intersection of Concourses A and B. It “will be available for all travelers, regardless of airlines and class of service,” officials announced in a prepared statement. “The Club MDW will offer complimentary food and beverage service to all its patrons in an inviting, relaxing environment.”

CRRNH TheClubMDWRendering 100423

A computer-generated look at what The Club MDW may look like in late 2024. –Supplied image

The 33,000-square-foot Club MDW will be accessible through Priority Pass, the world’s largest airport lounge membership program, headquartered in England. A day pass may also be purchased by any Midway passenger with a boarding pass, for $50.

CDoA Commissioner Jamie L. Rhee declined to make herself available to respond to a Greater Southwest News-Herald request for clarification on the “first time” claim about the lounge.

Others weren’t so shy.

Airport history buff Pat Minnie called the planned lounge “another idiotic idea to waste money…What will The Club MDW offer that isn’t there now? Food? Liquor? ‘Complimentary’ food that you get with your ‘complimentary’ $50?”

Fellow Midway historian Eva Kozlowski added, “Obviously, the new Club MDW is not the first airport lounge at Midway as they are stating in the announcement.” On top of that, she said, “I’m not sure I understand the concept of offering complimentary food and drink at Club MDW, even if you need a Priority Pass, since that will take business away from the restaurants/concessions that are currently there.”

Some welcomed the new lounge.

Midway historian Bob Russo told the Greater Southwest News-Herald, “The Club MDW will be a fantastic addition to Midway Airport, helping to bring the airport amenities up to world-class standards. Midway has never had a comparable lounge such as United’s Red Carpet Club, American’s Admiral’s Club or Delta’s Sky Club.

“However, when Midway Airlines introduced their ill-fated Midway Metrolink service in June 1983, this upscale service directed at the business person included the establishment of The Metrolink Club on the B concourse. This club offered all the amenities of The Club MDW but was restricted to Metrolink passengers,” he added.

In their announcement last week, Johnson Administration officials did not disclose how much the lounge will cost to build and maintain, as well as where funds will come from. They also did not offer specifics on how many jobs the new lounge will generate.

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