Now That I Think About It

Has a flight ever left Chicago O’Hare on time? Like, ever?  I’m sure one has. I just don’t think I’ve ever been on one.

(Guess where I am. Guess whose flight is delayed.)

Well, I might have been on one that left on time, if the flight I had into O’Hare hadn’t been delayed (due to traffic snarls at O’Hare), causing me to be reassigned to a flight that is delayed.

Despite that everything is fine, thanks. Since I’ve never known a flight departing from O’Hare to leave on time, as soon as I saw that I was heading there, I framed my brain for acceptance that I would not arrive where I was supposed to be any time close to when I was supposed to get there. My meetings aren’t until tomorrow morning, however. As long as I get to where I’m going before, oh, 8am, I’m fine. And I charged all my portable devices last night. And I brought four books, like I always do. I’ll be fine.

That said, I hope your day has not been as delay-tastic as mine.

47 Comments on “Now That I Think About It”

  1. Quick! Anyone in Chicago. Find some guy with a ARC of Saturn’s Children and mug his ass. Send book to me.


  2. Anyone mugs me, Krissy is going to find you and beat you six ways to Sunday. Just so you know.

  3. Can she wait until I finish the book? Or maybe while I am in the hospital I can read it.

  4. The books won’t be in much condition to read after she beats you into unconsciousness with it, Tom. Even in ARC form, those book spines hurt.

  5. I’m convinced Hell is an airport terminal where the plane never leaves. It either looks like O’Hare or Denver, depending on where you’ve had the worst experience. Denver for me.

  6. I think that are two O’Hares. The one I go to and the one everyone else complains about. I use to live in Chicago and had a handful of delays. Since moving, I have had a couple.

    Now DFW, that is an airport where I am delayed 50% of the time…. Most be some sort of conservation law in action.

  7. I think I can hide from one gurl for the few hours it will take me to read the book.

    The bathroom if anything! Been there done that!

  8. Never ever ever had a smooth experience at O’Hare. I used to fly through there several times a year when I was in grad school at Purdue, and dreaded it every time.

  9. In my personal experience, flights out of O’Hare aren’t delayed all that often. Newark, on the other hand, has about a 12% success ratio over the last four years.

    Meanwhile, at least O’Hare has a decent selection of restaurants and shops in the concourses. Most of the vendors serving a Chicago Hot Dog do a good job of it, even the ones that look like newspaper stands (no ketchup, and nobody gets hurt). Do not, however, get fooled by the Uno’s Pizza for sale there. It’s a franchised abomination that I believe was only sold half the recipe.

    Best of luck getting out,

  10. You just have really bad plane karma, John. Both times I’ve flown out of O’Hare, I had no problems. ;)

  11. Hah. I live here in the Chicago area, and whenever possible I fly out of Midway. That said, I’ve been on a lot of flights out of O’Hare that left on time. Just not my most recent one. (Last Friday I was supposed to be on an 8:20 am flight (cancelled) to Minneapolis and ended up on a flight that left at 5:45pm.

    Now I had the new Lois Bujold ARC to keep me happy during a chunk of that. Wolfgang Puck has some OK stuff for airport food.

  12. Want to trade places? I have been on a conference call for the past few hours working with a non-enlightened sales guy that is at some customer data center trying to fix some VOIP problem…At this point I would gladly sit at a boarding gate with 4 killer books to read. Or even be at the dentist getting a root canal for that matter…

  13. *chuckle* I know one that did; I was on it.

    Way the heck back when I was a young (but no longer naive) road warrior, the boss and I walked into O’Scare and the Delta monitor for our flight didn’t even have a time on it, it was just flashing SEE AGENT ominously. The boss sheelpled into the Medallion line. Me, not being slaved to the idea of making Platinum, immediately boogied downstairs to the phone bank opposite baggage claim and called my personal travel agent. “Mikey, I’m stuck in O’Hare, get me outta here!” “You got a preference?” “American would be fine.” (Being as it was in the same building as Doesn’t Ever Leave The Airport.) “Can you make it in ten minutes?” “I can try.” “You’re booked, go for it.” I hustled through the pre-2001 security, all the way out to the end of H concourse, slapped my ticket on the counter, took my middle seat and got the heck home.

    Next morning the boss said, “so, when did you get home?” “About nine,” I reply cheerily. He made some reference to my illegitimate lineage and informed me that Dangit Everything Leaves Through Atlanta didn’t get him back to Hartsfield until the witching hour…

    Moral: If you can afford it (and ten bucks a ticket, which was what they charged back then, was cheap), a good high-quality travel agent is worth their weight in gold-pressed latinum. Otherwise those are hours you will not get back.

  14. Flaws: 1) Flying Delta…

    Me, I’m aiming for Gold on American this year. I might be able to make it. Fortunately, most of their flights go through DFW for me, but there’s always the lurking danger of ORD in the background.

  15. 2 unrelated items.

    1, in answer to your question, there is one circumstance when a plane from Ohare will absolutely leave on time. That is when you need to make a connection and your incoming plane is late.

    2, the first time I ever flew, it was from Boston to Ohare to Ohare to Salt Lake. The Ohare to Ohare flight occurred because shortly after takeoff one engine exploded. It was quite dramatic. Red flames were shooting out the back of what was left, and thick black smoke accompanied the flames. A stewardess tried to tell me that there was no problem and that was expected behavior from an engine. While she was saying that, the pilot’s voice came over the intercom telling us we had to go back to Chicago for a new plane. For some reason, he felt compelled to add, “They say that these planes maneuver very well with one engine missing, but neither my co-pilot nor I have ever tried to do it.” I could have lived my life without knowing that. When we got back to Chicago (it didn’t take long) the runway was lined with firetrucks and ambulances. Not exactly reassuring. However, we landed without incident and American Airlines gave everyone a voucher for a free meal anywhere in the airport, to help us endure the wait. The second time things worked out much better.

  16. Flights at O’Hare are always on time when you only have 25 minutes or less between connections.

    Midway > O’Hare when it comes to flying out of Chicago, as it’s much less stressful and you can walk the span in twenty-ish minutes, but I suppose there are a few places O’Hare can take you that Midway can’t.

  17. The problem at O’Hare is that the scheduled traffic does not allow for anything other than perfect weather conditions. Once the new runway is open in November the dealys should subside a little. They won’t be eliminated entirely until the whole project is completed several years from now. If they ever are, that is.
    Midway does have less delays , but it is much more restrictive with regards to weather. There is just less traffic scheduled out of there.

  18. Why yes! Back in the late 1960’s I took many flights from O’Hare that left on time — and had many that also arrived on time!

  19. I’ve been changing planes at O’Hare for approximately 45 years, and I think that I can count the number of trouble-free flights on the fingers of one hand. Many years ago I adopted a policy of booking my flights through anywhere except O’Hare if at all practical, even at the cost of a theoretically longer total travel time.

    Ever since I began attempting to avoid O’Hare some 40 years ago, I’ve passed though other major hubs such as Dallas and Atlanta much more often than through O’Hare. Even with that attempt to minimize my exposure, I’ve had more problems at O’Hare than at all other hubs combined.

    With best wishes,
    – Tom –

  20. Tom @ 12: Those airlines are not based here at O’Hare (I live about 8 miles away), so they would not be doing the inspections here. Untied (mis-spelling on purpose) might, however, since they are based here.

  21. I adore O’Hare. Lovely light. Cool architecture. Nifty tinkly-music rainbow sculpture, at least until they added the remedial warnings for lame people on the slidewalks. And I don’t think I’ve had more flight delays out of there than anywhere else. Rather fewer than from Portland or LA. Maybe I’ve stolen your good O’Hare karma. And several other people’s, too…

  22. I have a related question, which is, has a flight ever arrived at a London-area airport to find a gate ready to receive passengers?

    Speaking as someone who, for complicated reasons, had the wonderful experience of arriving at Heathrow twice in the last seven days.

    I particularly like it when they can’t even find a ladder.

  23. As a Chicagoan, I second (third? fourth?) the “fly Midway” recommendation. Much fewer delays, smaller airport (although recently completely rebuilt and quite nice) and generally smoother operation.

  24. I recently took a trip out to Dallas, which was fun and exciting and absolutely successful… Now, on the way home, I hit the arse end of the universe that is Phoenix airport, and was there for a nice 3 hours with about 400 people in a tiny tiny area. I think there were about the number of people in DFW in one terminal about half the size… I did not enjoy myself.

  25. Has a flight ever left Chicago O’Hare on time? Like, ever? I’m sure one has. I just don’t think I’ve ever been on one.

    I was on one that pulled away from the gate early.

    I almost missed that because my arriving flight was a few minutes late; up I stroll, Mr. Oblivious, knowing it was tight but I had a good ten minutes and .. they’re shutting the door.

    The gate attendants were harried and it felt like being on the last plane out of Saigon and they trotted me down the jetway and threw me on the plane.

  26. I don’t do much flying – five round trips on American, two apiece on United, Continental, and pre-merger USAir, and one apiece on TWA and Delta.

    …So, anyone else here who will gladly fly three hours out of their way to avoid DFW?

    Whose bright idea was it to put three of the world’s busiest airports in places that routinely get clobbered by the kind of weather you tell your grandchildren about?

  27. Kerry @21 – American has a fairly major hub in ORD. It’s a bit behind DFW, but not by much, and I think bigger for them than MIA, their 3rd biggest. Miami gets all the Airbus aircraft and no Super 80s, and ORD does MD80s and the bigger stuff. DFW does some of everything.

    American had (has?) a fleet of Super 80s that do nothing but ORD – Somewhere flights and back, to minimize delays at ORD cascading to other airports becuuse the airframe was delayed elsewhere.

  28. I had to laugh at the comment, ” flights are on time at O’Hare when they’re 25 minutes apart”. Ain’t it the truth. I would always have these connections which span multiple concourses, so that making my connection was an aerobic experience. I’ve flown through O’Hare over 50 times, and can scarcely remember any of them being a good experience. In addition to the late flights, there’s no comfortable place to sit unless you’re a club member, and the terminals are nutritional dead zones.

  29. The worst airport is without any doubt Hearthrow (had the pleasure to spend 6 hours there this sunday), O’Hare is “just” a very big bus terminal, ok for about an hour, more than that it becomes insanely boring.

  30. I love that the flight is “on time” if it pushes back from the gate on schedule. If it doesn’t take off for 3 more hours it’s okay because it departed on time. That bit amazes me every time.

  31. The three times I’ve flown through O’Hare (once for my brother’s engagement, once for his wedding, once for the birth of my nephew… sense a pattern?) I haven’t had any problems that I can recall.

    My other brother’s flight in was eight to ten hours late one time, though. As a result, he was actually in Chicago for less than 16 hours before turning around and flying back.

  32. ORD (original name “Orchard Place Airport/Douglas Field” then “Orchard Field Airport” when Douglas left, and finally then named “O’Hare International” after a WW II flying ace)
    is very susceptible to bad weather, especially during summer afternoons and early evenings. The same for Denver and most Midwest airports. Avoid those times if possible.

    With that said the best view I have ever had of downtown Chicago was on a flight into O’Hare delayed by thunderstorms. We ended up approaching over the lake at a *very* low altitude, seeming to almost touch the building tops of downtown Chicago. It was great. One could spot landmarks all over the place. Needless to say we landed safely too.

  33. Scott@ 35
    I love that the flight is “on time” if it pushes back from the gate on schedule

    They’re being accurate, if nit-picky. The plane is in service and moving around with passengers so .. it departed on schedule. It’s not their fault that it takes three hours to get airborne.

    This does not mean it’s not aggravating to the passengers, or that you’re not late to see Aunt Sadie, I know. In a good world the airlines would charge only for flight hours, perhaps.

    In the real world, most airlines are barely eeking a profit as it is, if not running a loss from quarter to quarter.

  34. Brian,

    The best parts about pushing off from the gate and sitting on the tarmac are the lack of AC to save fuel, the close proximity to your neighbor, and the reluctance to let one get up to go to the toilet. On the other hand if you do make it to the toilet there is no chance of a fellow stallmate enticing you with tapped out codes.

    Speaking of that I was on the highway over Spring Break retrieving a sprog from college when something funny happened.

    I stopped at a truck stop and while in the stall I heard a guy come in, sit in the adjacent stall and then try to talk to me. “Hey, how you doin’?” he says. I ignored him and he said, louder, “I asked how ya doin’?” Being Minnesota nice and all I said meekly “OK.” He said loudly “How were the roads?” Being on safe ground I said louder “Not too bad. Some ice patches but not bad.” He then says very loudly “Listen, I’m gonna call you back. Some homo in the stall next to me keeps trying to talk to me!”

    I got out of there so fast I don’t even know if I took the time to wipe.

    Ah, modern times.

  35. From my experience, the airports I always, always avoid using if at all possible (= always possible):

    Chicago O’Hare. Like Tom 21 said, unless the weather there is perfect, there are delays. Sometimes even then. Maybe the new runway will help, who knows.

    Denver. Weather = the suck.

    San Francisco. Given all the other options in the Bay Area are much less affected by weather (= Act of God = passenger gets screwed), why ever fly into or through SFO?

    Heathrow. Because honestly, that place is god-awful dreadful. I’d rather have a round-trip flight from LA to NY that goes THROUGH SFO/DEN/ORD than fly through Heathrow even once.

    I’ve had delays elsewhere, but why fly aggravate things by going through airports where the delays are predictable and likely?

  36. The odd thing about O’Hare is that, even though it’s far from downtown, it’s municipally connected by a strip of land to the rest of Chicago to ensure that city hall can still control it.

  37. Wow! All you people have had very bad airport juju.
    Over the past few years I have made a lot of flights through…

    LHR: Enroute to Vienna. Never missed a connection of experienced a delay. The only drag being having to change terminals and that dreadful security line.

    VIE: What can I say..They seem to have it together. Although it is fairly small for an international airport. The lack of places to kick back while waiting to depart was kind of annoying.

    ZRH: If I am ever to be stuck in an airport again. Zürich would be my top place to get stuck.

    CDG: Wow…A 20 minute bus ride to change terminals. I didn’t get it. But Air France service was good.

    ATL: What a mess…If I have ever been confused at an airport it was there. AND my flight was delayed to SFO.

    DFW: Ewww! No thanks. THAT place was teh SUCK!

    SFO: It’s home! I am always happy to be there. It means I am either off on an adventure or soon to be home and collapse on my bed!

  38. Milwaukee…. anyone else have a problem with Milwaukee? It’s never been Milwaukee’s fault, but nevertheless that’s where I keep getting stuck.

  39. never go through OHairball, or Newark.. life will be better then. I default to Southern transfers, anything in the North may have Weather at any time including high summer thunderstorms.

    The last time I went through Newark, all the incoming flights were stacked up so that all the outbound could leave on time. Gee thanks.

    I live in Denver, so always get the early morning flights that overnighted here, never a problem ;-)

  40. Assuming anyone is still reading this….

    Doug K’s point above is the most important. Fly early in the morning and you will miss a lot of weather delays, and will have added time to catch later flights.

    This does not always work (I once spent 12 hours in Denver because of weather on the east coast) but it does count down on the number of thunder storms, tornados and frog raining experiences one has at in the middle of the US.

    Oh, and I hate waiting in Heathrow as well. At least they have lots of lines for everything (please, go through security again, just cause) to give you the illusion that you are not just standing around.

  41. Ah John, my friend, as so many of your readers note and you and I have discussed too often NEVER GO THROUGH O’HARE if can be avoided. You know this point. So I can only laugh, an evil laugh, much like the one you offer on Whatever, and from our youth.

    It may be a blunder as big as “Never get in involved in a land war in Asia” or “never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha…”

    oh wait he dies.


  42. I am a taxi dispatcher in St. Louis MO at a company that specializes in taking people to/from the airport. Airport runs make up 90% of our business easily and I work nights so a LOT of my job is tracking flights. I am at work right now and I actually go to this post when I did a Google search for “does any flight ever leave ORD on time?” heh

    For anyone that sees this in the future-

    Ohare is probably the worst airport in the country for delays. People say fly Midway but realistically that’s NOT much better. Southwest uses Midway and their flights from Chicago are more likely than United flights which use ORD but of course less likely than AA flights from ORD. You re kidding yourself if you take an American flight from ORD on a schedule. Sometimes they leave early. Most of the time they leave late. I have been tracking hundreds of flights a day the past three years and I can count on one hand the number of AA flights from ORD I remember leaving on time.

    DFW is definitely better than ORD but not by much. Since TWA folded both AA and Southwest have added flights that try and use the extra space in STL by stopping here. A lot of times that will actually be a better option for you than switching planes in Chicago. The extra time for the stop is still less than the extra time you are usually delayed in Chicago. If you are westbound I strongly reccomend flying Continental. Their delays in Newark may suck but the lack of delays in Houston is very nice and they are pretty smooth in Cleveland as well. Northwest has hubs in Detroit and Minneapolis and those both perform better than the Chicago airports as well.

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