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As the second busiest airport in the world, O'Hare obviously is a well-used airport, although it is hardly efficient. Every year, thousands, if not millions are held up at O'Hare and reach their destination point far later than planned.
So how do you minimize your chances of dealing with gruesome delays and cancellations? Many of these tips can help lessen your chances of dealing with major delays not only at O'Hare, but many other major U.S. airports.
Midway Airport is a much smaller and less delayed airport on Chicago's southwest side. It is in a safe area of the city, recieves many flights from low-cost carriers such as Southwest Airlines and Air Tran, and is much less delayed and congested than O'Hare. Even in bad weather, delays at Midway are less than delays at O'Hare. Use Midway especially if your travels are originating in Chicago, or if Chicago is your destination. However, note that besides occasional flights to Mexico, Midway offers no international flights.
It is a well-proven fact with many airports, not just O'Hare, that the earlier in the day you travel, the better. Not only are airports less congested in the morning (after the 6-7AM departure rush), but weather systems typically form and hit later in the day. This is especially true in the summer when thunderstorms form with the afternoon heating. For more information on the best and worst times to fly into airports, visit www.avoiddelays.com The worst time to fly through O'Hare, as listed on avoid delays.com, is from 7-9PM.
Delays from throughout the day start to pile up at 3PM at O'Hare. 3-5PM is also the time of day when O'Hare is at its busiest. Runway jams occur (lines of planes awaiting a takeoff or parking) Delays from this busy time of day ripple throughout the evening, making any time after 3PM most prone to delays. (That's why 7-9PM is the worst time to fly to O'Hare)
On a yearly basis, there are times of the year when flights at O'Hare often run smoothly. Anywhere during late spring, after the snow season ends but before the June thunderstorm season arrives, hosts great weather and good on-time ratings. Also, early fall hosts many sunny, clear days in Chicago. But remember, Chicago weather is often unpredictable and O'Hare is a very dense and congested airspace that can slow down for reasons as unthinkable as low clouds.
In fact, O'Hare could be a BETTER airport to fly in during the summer than southern hubs such as Dallas. Last year, Dallas was plaqued by thunderstorms nearly every afternoon, causing unprecedented delays and causing many flights heading to Dallas to be diverted to Oklahoma. O'Hare and other northern airports are often less affected by summer storms than airports in the south, which sometimes recieve "pop-up" storms on summer afternoons.
Foreign airlines' planes at O'Hare are flown less than United or American's planes, so flights on foreign airlines are less-likely to be delayed. Airlines such as Lufthansa and Air France, for example, have good on-time ratings. Also, you might enjoy perks on foreign airlines' planes that U.S. carriers don't have yet! To see specific perks, visit www.seatguru.com, type in the airline and your type of plane, and the website will come up with all your plane's features. Also, on this site, you'll see the best and worst seats in your class (coach , business, etc.) on the plane.
If you live in Iowa, Indiana, southern Wisconsin or downstate Illinois, DRIVE TO O'HARE, DON'T FLY A REGIONAL JET TO O'HARE. The regional (short distance) flights to O'Hare are THE FIRST to get delayed and canceled ahead of bad weather in favor of larger planes flying from farther cities. Your chances of catching the connecting flight to your final destination ARE MUCH HIGHER if you drive.
If you are connecting from a city that is farther away, allow atleast an hour to lapse between your connecting flights when traveling domestically, and aleast two hours between a domestic-international (or vise versa) connecting flight.
If you've ever booked a flight on the internet before, you know the screen where you select your flight. Often, there is a list of multiple airplanes flying many flights available for you to choose. PICK THE FLIGHT EARLIER IN THE DAY (if possible) AND ESPECIALLY, PICK THE FLIGHT WITH THE LARGEST PLANE. Planes usually have other places to fly after it drops you off at O'Hare. The largest plane often has to fly to a farther destination. The planes going to the farthest destinations have top priority for takeoff, and are usually more on-time. ALSO, LARGER PLANES ALSO CAN FLY THROUGH INCLEMENT WEATHER EASIER AND THE FLIGHT WILL BE SMOOTHER. Large planes include the 757,767, 777 & 747. SMALL planes include the MD-80, 737, E-190, A319, A320 & E-145.
Before heading to the airport, type in your airport's code or flight number to websites such as www.flightaware.com, and especially www.flightstats.com, which provide live airport status and flight on-time info, and both are always more accurate than your airline's website. Here, delays at the airport will be shown, and if you're sure your flight is delayed, you may not have to leave for the airport as early as you planned!
For frequent O'Hare travelers, as well as the entire U.S. aviation system, would perhaps be glad to hear that a new runway, air traffic control tower, and extensions to some existing runways will open in November 2008. The new runway will provide significant help in O'Hare's operations in inclement weather. This is just the beginning of a massive project to reconfigure O'Hare's infrastructure, which the FAA predicts will shave several minutes off the average delay at the airport. O'Hare has been succesfully acquiring most of the land necessary for a second new runway, with some opposition from local communities, but no where near the level of opposition felt at London's Heathrow Airport, also trying to expand. For more information on O'Hare's ongoing expansion project, visit www.ohare.com and select the link for "O'Hare Modernization Program."