The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



O’Hare travellers hope new regulations decrease delays

Peter Leahy | Friday, October 15, 2004

As students pour into airports to hop a flight back home for fall break, they will inevitably face the dreaded delay. Unfortunately for those who take advantage of Chicago’s air travel options, O’Hare International Airport has been recognized as one of the worst airports in the nation.

In an effort to reduce the system-wide congestion caused by the problems at O’Hare, the Federal Aviation Administration made an agreement with airlines in August to cut 37 peak-hour arrivals at the hub airport.

The reduction of flight traffic is expected to reduce delays at O’Hare by about 20 percent and across the rest of the national air network by 5 percent, airport officials said. Before the FAA stepped in, records indicate that only 67 percent of flights were arriving there on-time

“After meetings [last August] with the FAA the airlines voluntarily came to an agreement to cut flights,” Annette Martinez, spokeswoman for the City of Chicago Department of Aviation, said. “We were at the bottom of the top ranking U.S. airports in the U.S. in May. Now we are 26th.”

Martinez was referring to Bureau of Transportation statistics that rank the major national airports based on the number of delays, with the slower airports lower on the list.

Martinez said that the rise is probably due to improved weather in the time from May until to now.

“On time performance has improved mainly because of better weather,” Martinez said. “It could have been the flight cuts but we won’t know that until we have more time to assess the impact of the flight cuts.”

Whether it’s the weather or the cuts, students routed out of O’Hare are crossing their fingers for a smooth trip.

One of the unlucky ones, Zahm freshman Creston Brown said he was once delayed twenty hours on a flight going to China.

“Our flight was scheduled for 7 a.m. and we left after midnight,” he said.

Over break, Brown is flying from the South Bend Airport to O’Hare to his home in Columbia, S.C. He has an already scheduled three-hour layover at O’Hare, but Brown said he can handle it.

“After twenty hours three hours doesn’t seem like much,” Brown said.

There are a few main reasons why flights to and from O’Hare are so susceptible to delays.

“O’Hare tends to get backed up because of weather problems,” Mary Kowalski, manager of Anthony Travel, said.

In other cases there are too many flights booked for O’Hare to handle, Kowalski said.

Brown had some suggestions of his own for improving the situation.

“They need to slow down flights but the more they slow down flights the more they slow down the economy,” Brown said.

Cavanaugh freshman Meg O’ Farrell said she hopes that delays will not affect her as she departs from O’Hare on a flight to Tulsa, Okla.

“My flight arrives in Oklahoma at 10:30 p.m., so if it gets delayed I’m looking at a middle of the night arrival,” she said.

While delays due to the weather are unavoidable, Kowalski said there are ways to improve the travel experience.

“Call and reconfirm your flight make sure you don’t have schedule changes and get to the airport early if the weather looks bad” Kowalski said.

Another way to make traveling easier, at least during fall break, is to travel out of the smaller South Bend Regional Airport. Administrative and finance director of South Bend Airport Mike Guljas replied that fall break is a busy but not overwhelming time for the airport.

“We have plenty of capacity,” Guljas said. “We wish it was always this full. The airlines do not increase the number of flights it is just that they are more full.”

No changes are made in the airport’s procedures beyond security measures.

“Our safety officers would be more on the look out for traffic congestions,” Guljas said.

Congestion at O’Hare remains a problem even after the cuts in the numbers of flights. To remedy the situation, Kowalski recommended that South Bend take on more business.

“It’d be nice if we could see more air service out of South Bend,” Kowalski said.