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June 23, 2024

Fog Leads to Flight Delays and Cancellations at Chicago Midway Airport on Christmas Eve

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Dec 25, 2023

Dense fog caused dozens of flight delays and cancellations at Chicago Midway International Airport on Christmas Eve, leaving many travelers stranded. Southwest Airlines was the most impacted, canceling over 50 flights on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

Over 100 Flights Impacted Due to Low Visibility

Dangerously low visibility from thick fog rolling over the Chicago area resulted in about 100 flight delays and cancellations across the city’s airports on December 24th. Over 50 Southwest Airlines flights were canceled at Midway alone. An additional 40 flights were delayed, causing travel headaches for many on Christmas Eve.

The fog led the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue a temporary nationwide ground stop around 6:30AM local time that halted any additional flights from taking off. This prevented additional backups and allowed the crews on the ground to rebook impacted travelers. Even after the ground stop ended, some arriving flights were diverted to other airports due to visibility issues.

Status Number of Flights Airline
Canceled 50+ Southwest
Delayed 40+ Various
Diverted Unknown Various

The Chicago Department of Aviation reported visibility at Midway Airport was less than a quarter mile at times Saturday morning. This wreaked havoc on holiday travel across the Midwest hub airport.

Stranded Passengers Face Additional Travel Woes

Passengers dealing with canceled or delayed flights faced difficulty rebooking due to the high demand on one of the busiest travel days of the year. Many took to social media to vent their frustrations.

With most flights full, passengers on canceled flights likely faced long wait times to get on later flights. Some opted to try to drive or take ground transportation instead.

By late morning on the 24th, over 1,000 Southwest Airlines flights were delayed nationwide in addition to approximately 60 canceled flights. This highlighted the airline’s ongoing issues recovering from an operational meltdown earlier this winter.

Southwest passengers have faced more than 15,000 flight cancellations since early December, according to flight tracking site FlightAware. This debacle started with a winter storm but was exacerbated by staffing and technology issues. The holiday travel season appears to be further testing Southwest’s resources.

Midway Frequently Impacted by Adverse Weather

Chicago Midway Airport often faces significant travel disruptions when dense fog rolls in off nearby Lake Michigan. Its location in the heart of the city leaves planes descending straight into the soup without high altitude clearance options.

The low cloud ceiling makes it difficult and dangerous for planes to land safely. Flight crews have to carefully navigate final descent relying heavily on instruments over visual confirmation.

Midway Airport officially opened in 1927 and continues serving commercial traffic despite its challenging location. After this latest round of weather cancellations, local politicians and advocacy groups may again push for improved landing systems. But any enhancements require significant federal funding.

Outlook for Christmas Day Travel

The dense fog that created problems on Christmas Eve morning was expected to lift by mid-day on the 24th. That should prevent any further weather issues for Chicago air travel during the holiday weekend.

However, flight operations are unlikely to be back to normal right away given the morning’s ripple effects. Travelers should continue monitoring their flight status even if the weather clears up.

Southwest and other airlines will work through a backlog of stranded passengers from canceled flights plus accommodate all scheduled Christmas Day travelers. So expect long lines and headaches.

Any new winter weather systems moving across the country could also disrupt air travel nationwide over the next week. Make sure to give yourself extra time getting to and from the airport.

Overall, things appear to be looking up for Christmas Day travel out of Chicago Midway Airport after a very dense, foggy Christmas Eve morning.

AiBot

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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