Travelers from Japan react to quake

March 11, 2011 2:28:04 PM PST
Passengers from Japan and Hawaii have been arriving in Chicago today. They were in the air when the quake hit. Some are trying to contact their loved ones.

Tokyo's Narita International Airport is among the world's busiest, so when Friday's earthquake and ensuing tsunami hit, it disrupted travel all over the world.

Many flights that were already en route to Japan, including some from the United States, had to be diverted. Most of those that had not yet taken off were cancelled.

As for those people who did land in Chicago, after the 15-hour flight, they were still trying to get caught up on the news.

Even with Narita back open, there were few flights leaving the United States for Japan on Friday. American Airlines cancelled its flights out of Chicago and elsewhere, while United went ahead with its 1:16 p.m. out of O'Hare, but there weren't many people on board.

As for arrivals, two flights touched down early Friday morning. Both planes had taken off before the earthquake hit-- passengers were barely aware of what had happened.

"That is scary because you don't know what's going to happen to (people in Japan)," said Sirima Sirano. "Just pray they're okay."

Many took to their cell phones as soon as they got through security, trying to get news of loved ones back home, but getting through to them was proving to be a challenge.

Suzuka Hetterich woman has family in Sendai.

"I'm trying to get a hold of them, but the phone connections is very bad," said Hetterich.

"There are a bunch of coworkers that are still there," said John Succo, who was arriving from Tokyo.

Meanwhile, those trying to rebook their outgoing flights for Friday were having little luck.

American Airlines is telling its passengers scheduled to fly to Japan between now and March 14 that they can change their itineraries without penalty.

Rina Ysuda is one of the lucky few who did manage to get on a Tokyo-bound flight Friday.

"I'm just worried about my friends who live in Tokyo, and also I have a friend in Sendai, so I hope they're safe," said Ysuda.

As of right now, it does appear that inbound and outbound travel to Japan will be back to normal for Saturday, but as always, if you have plans to fly to Tokyo or elsewhere, it is best to check before heading to the airport.

If you have to rebook your flight, the best advice is not do it from the airport ; rather, do it online or over the phone.

Several hotlines have been set up for local resident who have family members in Japan.

You can call 312-280-0400 or 1-800-776-3877.