Midway control tower reopens after COVID-19 exposure

The closure prompted Southwest Airlines to suspend all of its flights at its Chicago hub.

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FILE - In this Tuesday, March 17, 2020 file photo, the sun sets behind the FAA Control Tower at Chicago’s Midway International Airport in Chicago. Southwest Airlines has cancelled all of its fights in and out of Midway International Airport, days after federal authorities closed the airport’s control tower after technicians tested positive for the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File) ORG XMIT: OKSO201

Midway Airport’s control tower reopened Tuesday, March 24, 2020, after being closed for a week due to COVID-19.

AP file photo

The air traffic control tower at Midway Airport reopened Tuesday, a week after it closed for cleaning due to a COVID-19 exposure that disrupted flights in and out of the airport.

Several employees in the tower tested positive for the virus March 17, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

When the tower closed, flights operated on a “one-in-one-out” basis, prompting Southwest Airlines to suspend all of its flights at the airport. Flights were controlled from a remote facility.

“Every air traffic control facility in the country has a contingency plan to keep air traffic moving safely when events impede normal operations,” FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory said in an emailed statement. “In some cases, this means transferring duties to adjacent facilities.”

Last Friday, Southwest Airlines said it began flying at the airport, operating 4 to 6 flights per hour, according to airline spokeswoman Ro Hawthorne.

Some cancellations were due to poor weather, but the airline has canceled about 1,000 daily flights nationwide due to a drop in demand, she said.

When the tower reopened Tuesday, Southwest was operating 80 of more than 220 scheduled departures, Hawthorne said.

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