Airlines delayed almost 1,280 flights and canceled about 220 others after heavy fog blanketed Chicago airports at the start of the Thanksgiving holiday travel rush, industry researcher FlightStats.com reported.
The slowdown persisted even as the morning fog lifted, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. While some carriers returned to normal schedules at O’Hare airport this afternoon, delays averaged two hours for regional airlines, and flights at Midway airport were running 45 minutes late.
“Travelers flying to or through Midway can anticipate delays throughout the day,” said Paul Flaningan, a spokesman for Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Co.
Chicago is a linchpin in the U.S. air-traffic network, especially for east-west flights, and the aviation department predicts almost 1.8 million travelers will use the two airports in the eight-day Thanksgiving travel period ending Nov. 27. O’Hare is the second-busiest U.S. airport, after Atlanta’s Hartsfield, and is a United and American hub.
Visibility at O’Hare improved by mid-afternoon to 6 miles (10 kilometers) after being reported as zero earlier in the day, according to FlightStats.
United Express, the regional partner for United Continental Holdings Inc.’s United Airlines, scrubbed about 90 flights at O’Hare, while AMR Corp.’s American Airlines canceled 34 flights by its regional carriers, spokeswomen said. Southwest scrapped 31 flights from Midway.
About 150 United and United Express flights were delayed for as much as 80 minutes, said Mary Ryan, a spokeswoman. Chicago-based United is allowing affected passengers to rebook today at no charge.