Chicago Flight Delays Still a Problem for Air Travelers

Thousands of travelers were stranded over the weekend in Chicago, and things may not return to normal until October 13.

(Update: October 1, 2014 8:34 a.m. EDT) The FAA reports 80 percent of flights in and out of O’Hare were on schedule yesterday, and 85 percent of traffic was back to normal at Midway. Still, major airlines have extended change-fee waivers this week. American, United, Southwest, and US Airways are allowing travelers flying through Midwestern airports through October 3 to change itineraries at no charge. Keep checking your flight status if you’re heading to the Midwest this week. Check airline Twitter feeds, sign up for flight alerts, and keep your airline’s phone number handy.

Thousands of air travelers were stranded over the weekend at Chicago O’Hare and Midway after an employee started a fire at a radar-control center near the city. As we enter day three of big delays and cancellations in the Chicago area, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it expects full service in the region by October 13.

The good news: The situation is improving. The FAA is working hard to get things back to normal. Yesterday, the FAA said it is bringing in a team of technicians to fix the problem and has “re-established consistent arrival and departure rates at Chicago area airports, providing airlines with needed predictability to build flight schedules.” About 60 percent of flights at O’Hare were operating on schedule on Sunday, as were 75 percent of flights at Midway.

In the meantime, it’s up to you to vigilantly check your fight status if you’re heading to the Chicago area. As one might expect, airlines are easing change-fees for travelers going through the Midwest early this week. But it’s not just Chicago airports on which flyers need to keep an eye. When major hubs are hit with large schedule disruptions, due to weather or other problems like this fire, a chain reaction triggers problems around the country. American, for example, warns of delays and cancellations at 13 Midwestern airports, and waives ticket reissue charges for passengers heading to that area through tomorrow.

Check your airline’s website for more information on change fees. Although most carriers are only waiving fees for travel through Tuesday, some airlines may extend those dates if delays and cancellations continue to be a problem.

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By Caroline Costello

Caroline Costello's travel accomplishments include surviving a 2 a.m. whitewater rafting excursion in the Canadian wilderness, successfully biking from Dusseldorf to Cologne without a map, and gaining access to a covert pizza speakeasy in New Orleans.

Caroline is an active member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). Her work has appeared on USA Today, the Boston Globe,,, ABC News, TODAY Travel, and, among other publications.

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