Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Weather Worries

A "ground stop" was declared this morning at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago due to high winds and rain. As most residents know, the city experienced some intense weather conditions early in the day; in fact, many news stations claimed it was going to be the most powerful storm Chicago has seen in seven decades. (That's quite a claim, and I'm still waiting for the confirmation on that. So far, no hard evidence.) Clearly, it was bad enough for O'Hare to ground flights. (Although, it usually doesn't take much for O'Hare to do that sort of thing.) Now, over 300 flights out of the airport have been cancelled, leaving thousands stranded for the day.

I don't mean to be such a skeptic, but I experienced about ten minutes of monsoon-like rain and wind gusts, then it lightened up, the clouds sped by and skies cleared up. I'm looking at a blue sky right now. No disrespect to the weather men and women out there, but I don't see this being as bad as predicted. And I certainly see no reason why O'Hare feels the need to cancel so many flights. Midway is experiencing the same weather, and they seem to be handling the situation pretty well, despite having numerous delays on incoming and outgoing flights. I have had more than one bad experience with O'Hare delaying or cancelling my flights due to weather, and each time it was unnecessary. Every time it happens, I get the feeling that O'Hare plays into the media hype given to these storms, and rather than taking it in stride, they cancel or delay flights in anticipation of bad conditions before actually seeing them play out. It leaves many people running for connecting flights in other cities, standing in customer service lines trying to find other flights, or just stranded for an extra day. It's frustrating, especially for those who travel on a regular basis.

Obviously, I understand that weather conditions affect flights, and if there are legitimate reasons--whiteout conditions, tornadoes--I can accept a cancelled flight. But one of my flights out of O'Hare a few months ago to visit my dad in Canada was cancelled due to dense fog. First of all, the fog cleared up by mid-morning and my flight was at 4:30 pm, and when I stepped out of my office around 1:30, the sun was shining, clear skies and seventy-degree temperatures--perfect flying weather. I called right away and got another flight, irritated that the first one had been cancelled at all when the weather was clearly not an issue.

I know I'm ranting, but when I see these announcements about mass cancellations, I have to wonder if they are really necessary, if the weather really is that bad. If conditions outside worsen, then I will admit to being wrong, but until that happens, I maintain that airports should try to get their flights out, even if they have to be a little late.

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