Travelers Recall Travel Nightmare at O'Hare - NBC4 Washington
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Travelers Recall Travel Nightmare at O'Hare

More than 1,550 flights were canceled at O'Hare and close to 500 at Midway

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Canceled Flights Leave Travelers Scrambling

    9/26/2014: More than 1,550 flights were canceled at O'Hare and close to 500 at Midway Friday, spoiling travel plans everywhere. NBC 5's Natalie Martinez reports. (Published Friday, Sept. 26, 2014)

    Thousands of stranded travelers were left to fend for themselves Friday after a fire at an FAA facility in suburban Chicago led to ground stop at O'Hare and Midway international airports.

    More than 2,000 flights were canceled between the two airports. Passengers traveling Saturday are urged to call their airline before heading to the airport.

    After multiple delays, a group of Texas basketball players finally made it into Chicago Friday night in time for a weekend tournament.

    "I was excited to get to play. I was like, 'What if we don't make it?" player Nikki Cardanal said.

    The Hilton Hotel next to O'Hare quickly filled to capacity.

    "We'll start reaching out to our sister properties maybe 10-15 miles outside of where we are and help them get from here to there," Hilton GM Paul Grande said.

    Sonja Nitsch from upstate New York and Scott Albert from London were both stranded at O'Hare, trying to get to the same wedding in Iowa. Their flight was canceled, but help is coming in the form of some other stranded travelers from Baltimore.

    "Their flight was cancelled so they got a rental car, so they'll be swinging by here around 2 a.m. and picking us up," Nitsch said.

    For passengers arriving at the airport Friday morning, it was a rude awakening.

    "My wife got a phone message from one of our friends and they said, 'Turn on the TV, there is a problem,'" traveler Randy Anderson said.

    Amin Saveghi had to struggle to reschedule his business trip to New York.

    "We got a voice message in the morning that we have rescheduled your flight to tomorrow," Saveghi said. "And our return flight was already [booked] for tomorrow. Basically our outgoing flight was the same day as our return flight."

    Oak Lawn's Erica Heilmann and her daughter Natalie were finally planning to take a trip to New York City this weekend after cancer forced her to postpone the trip earlier. But Friday's ground stop at Midway derailed those plans again.

    "I was disappointed, but you also look around at the people in the line that you're talking to and see people have greater stories," Heilman said.

    Jennifer Haag and her family drove to Midway from Morton, Illinois Friday, all set to board an 8 a.m. flight for a long-planned birthday visit to Disney World.

    "One person's choice has affected thousands. It has ruined our day for sure," Haag said.

    The Haags couldn't get another flight until Saturday night, so they rented a car and planned to drive to Indianapolis to catch a plane there.

    "We were so excited. Now it's just a bad start to the whole thing," Haag said.

    Steve Herda said he will miss a family wedding Saturday in Tulsa.

    "All of a sudden we went to get something to eat and flights were canceled. And then it wouldn't be until tomorrow," Herda said. "Which is no good because we are supposed to be at a wedding tomorrow. They want to send us to Charlotte, then Tulsa, so we wouldn't get there until after the fact anyway."

    While most travelers worried about getting to their destinations, Gloria Money was worried about her health.

    "I am a diabetic, OK," Money said. "I left my medication in my bag when I checked in. I am trying to get my bag so I can get my medication out, and I am getting all kind of runaround."

    Ed DeWarrd and his daughter tried to make the best of a bad situation.

    "You can either choose to be happy or upset about it," DeWarrd said. "And for me I am trying to follow her lead. If she's happy, I'm happy."