O'Hare Airport

Traveling for the Fourth of July? Prepare for Flight Delays or Even Cancellations, Experts Warn

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Flying in or out of Chicago for the holiday weekend? Be sure to check and see if your flight is delayed -- or even canceled. According to travel experts, the potential for flight disruption this week is high.

Across the country Tuesday, there were 4,640 flight delays within, into or out of the United States, according to Flight Aware. Over 600 flights were canceled entirely.

At O'Hare alone, 100 flights had been canceled between Wednesday and Thursday morning.

According to Joseph P. Schwieterman, professor of Public Service Management at Chaddick Institute at DePaul University, a surge in flight bookings paired with pilot and TSA staffing difficulties is creating the perfect storm for what's predicted to be the busiest travel weekend of the year thus far -- with more than 12.3 million people expected to pass through checkpoints.

"U.S. airlines face an extraordinary challenge in handling the volume of domestic traffic that is expected over the Fourth of July weekend, Schwieterman said in a bulletin sent out Tuesday.

"The share of flights canceled by the four largest U.S. airlines has regularly been 5% or more in recent weeks, which is well above the 1.3% full-year average from 2019."

According to NBC News, more than 800 flights across America were canceled Sunday.

What Airlines are Saying

Lufthansa Group, which includes Austrian, Brussels, Eurowings, Lufthansa and Swiss airlines, said this week that it expects the delays as the summer months continue.

"We want to be completely honest: In the coming weeks, as passenger numbers continue to rise, be it for leisure or business travel, the situation is unlikely to improve in the short term," the airline said in an email to customers Monday.

"Too many employees and resources are still unavailable, not only at our infrastructure partners but in some of our own areas, too," the email continued.

The airline also noted that the ongoing war in Ukraine is "severely restricting available airspace in Europe, leading to massive bottlenecks in the skies and thus, unfortunately, to further flight delays."

According to NBC News, Delta blamed its cancelations on "compounding factors affecting our operation" which included "higher-than-planned unscheduled absences in some of our work groups, weather and air traffic control constraints."

United told NBC News that its latest cancellation numbers were skewed by schedule changes out of Newark, New Jersey, which were announced last week.

NBC News also reported that Allegiant Air on Monday said in a statement that its numbers in the FlightAware database were skewed by a "schedule adjustment to 14 flights that were originally supposed to operate" Sunday.

What to Expect in Chicago

Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee has responded to the flight concerns, offering vouchers to families whose holiday weekend plans were impacted by travel difficulties.

Any family staying at the resort who had their trips disrupted due to a flight cancellation are eligible for a chance to receive a complimentary one-night stay at any of the 18 resort locations nationwide, the company said on Twitter.

The Chicago Department of Aviation on Wednesday said that Chicago airports expect 1.6 million travelers through Tuesday, with O'Hare International Airport expecting a 17.3% increased from last year and 36.9% uptick at Midway Airport.

While masks aren't required, Chicago remains at a “high” risk level for COVID-19, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health, and the CDPH strongly recommends wearing mask in public indoor spaces, including airports.

If traveling through Chicago for the holiday, keep these tips in mind:

  • Arrive early
  • Before arrival, check flight times, parking information, taxi wait times, available food near the gate and any other alerts
  • To avoid traffic, consider taking the CTA Blue Line to O'Hare and Orange Line to Midway; drop off at the Kiss n' Fly; or use Cell Phone Lots while waiting to pick up travelers
  • Be wary of construction at O'Hare along the curbsides in Terminal 5 and roadways in Terminals 1, 2 and 3
  • Locate the nearest, new lactation pods being installed at O'Hare's Terminal 1, as well as existing pods at Terminals 1, 2 and 3, along with one at Midway
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