Travelers walk through O’Hare Airport.

Travelers walk through O’Hare Airport.

Nam Y. Huh / AP Photo

Chicago flight delays: One in four flights to Midway, O’Hare airports delayed this summer

Airline travel in to Chicago was especially fraught at Midway. In June, two of every five flights were delayed.

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Flight delays and cancellations coming in to Chicago this summer have gotten worse.

Nearly one-quarter of all flights arriving at O’Hare Airport and Midway Airport between May and July — about 28,000 altogether — were delayed, according to data from FlightAware, an aviation intelligence company.

More than 2,000 flights were canceled.

Airline travel in to Chicago was especially fraught at Midway. In June, two of every five flights were delayed.

Weather was the big issue involved in the delays, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. About 85% of “delay minutes” in Chicago were attributable to bad weather.

Staffing shortages accounted for about 7% of the delay time in Chicago, an FAA spokesperson says.

The delays resulting from bad weather and staffing issues can have cascading effects.

Just ask Mallory Cheng. In July, she was taking a 6:30 a.m. flight on Southwest Airlines from Midway to Oakland International Airport that was delayed by almost 10 hours.

“The first major delay was due to thunderstorms and high wind,” according to Cheng, who says she waited about three hours to board the plane, and then the pilot announced a “weight issue.”

Passengers were told the pilots would have “timed out” while flying, she says, referring to federal regulations that limit a crew’s on-duty and flight time.

Cheng says by the time the plane finally departed with a new pilot and co-pilot, it was nine hours and 40 minutes past her scheduled departure time.

In May, the worst window for outbound O’Hare flights was 4 p.m. to 4:59 p.m., with a 71% on-time departure rate.

At Midway, passengers had the least luck between 9 p.m. and 10:59 p.m., with fewer than one in three outbound flights in that span leaving on schedule.

In 2020, shortly after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, the percentage of flights that were delayed in Chicago actually declined — but the number of flight cancellations skyrocketed.

Then, in the summer of 2021, arrival delays at Midway exceeded 2019’s pre-pandemic levels. The percentage of delays at O’Hare also went up, though not as much.

Chicago isn’t alone in seeing increases in flight delays and cancellations this summer. Newark, New Jersey, saw similar levels of delays as Midway in May — 37%. And delays in Atlanta, Miami, Orlando and New York were higher in June than they were in 2019.

Nationwide, about 37% of delay minutes from January to May this year were blamed on a late aircraft, according to federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics data.

Your best bet for an on-time departure? Not surprisingly, it’s to fly early in the morning or late at night, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

If flight delays aren’t enough to make you worry about air travel, there’s this: Airline fares have been rising, up by 28% as of July from a year earlier, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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