Weather causing problems for holiday travelers

November 30, 2008 7:34:30 PM PST
Sunday's storm comes at a bad time for travelers who are trying to drive or fly home after the Thanksgiving holiday.Most industry experts thought many people would stay home and that travel problems would be less significant.

Regardless, the weather's rain-snow is creating some problems. As of 5 p.m. Sunday, at least 50 flights had been canceled at O'Hare airport. Airport officials also were reporting delays between 30 and 60 minutes because of low visibility.

Still, many travelers breezed through O'Hare's terminals.

"I wasn't coming home Thanksgiving because I live overseas, but because the airfares were so low, [I came]," said Rhett del Campo.

"[It] used to be more crowded. I am a little shocked. It is Sunday afternoon, the end of the weekend," traveler Al Ledesma said.

Although ticket counters were slow, security lines filled with passengers taking advantage of last-minute airline deals.

Lines at the train station moved along at a good pace as some travelers opted for the rails.

"For the Thanksgiving break, short breaks, I'll take the train. When I'm coming for an extended break, I'll drive. For the short weekends, it's a lot easier to take the train," said passenger Jennifer Thompson.

It appears many Americans did skip trips this year because of fears about the bad economy. AAA Chicago reports that 41 million people were expected to travel over 50 miles for the holiday. That's down 1.5 percent from last Thanksgiving. Those taking to the skies dropped too by about 7 percent, while 1 percent fewer hit the roads for the Thanksgiving weekend.

A lot of people were undeterred by the gloomy economic forecast, and took to the roads because falling gas prices made that decision for them.

"We usually fly, but we met my sister from Iowa. We are going back to Cleveland. We both have teenage daughters. So we have been here in the city for a couple days," driver Kathy Firlotte told ABC7 Chicago.

What started out as a mild forecast gave way to the threat of snow Sunday, making getting around more difficult both in the air and on the ground. Also complicating matters was an effort by Chicago area cabdrivers to stage a 24-hour strike to support a fare hike.

"We have to transport people throughout the city. And if we are unable to take care of our families and pay our bills, how will those people get transported? We cannot transport people for free," cab driver Ron Florence said.

Cab drivers at O'Hare airport told ABC7 that their issue is not with the transporting public, but with the city. They want to make sure the city understands that they need a fare increase.

The strike they began at approximately 2 p.m. Sunday and as expected to remain in effect until about 2 p.m. Monday.

The drivers said they would continue the strike if they did not get a fare increase.

At Midway airport, officials were also reporting some delays from 15 to 40 minutes, but no cancellations were reported.

Still, airport authorities say, as the weather continues to worsen, expect to see more issues.


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