No Flights Operating At Midway; American Suspends Operations, United Limits Flights At ORD

Updated 02/01/11 – 7:04 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — All airlines at Midway International Airport have canceled operations for the rest of the day and up through Wednesday afternoon, as have most airlines at O’Hare International Airport, as a historic blizzard blows into the area.

As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, American Airlines shut down operations at O’Hare International Airport for the rest of the day at 4 p.m., up through Wednesday morning and United is drastically limiting flights on Tuesday afternoon at O’Hare. As of 3:30 p.m., more than 1,300 flights had been canceled at O’Hare. Most other airlines were also cancelling all operations until Wednesday at O’Hare.

At Midway International, the airport remains open, but no flights were landing or taking off Tuesday afternoon and operations were not expected to resume until Wednesday afternoon.

The Chicago Aviation Department says that most of the airlines have said that they will either limit or halt flights on Wednesday.

American canceled more than 600 flights at O’Hare alone and shut down its entire operation after 4 p.m. and does not plan to resume flights until noon Wednesday at the earliest.

American Airlines spokesman Ed Martell said a shutdown of operations is an extremely rare event. He said in 10 1/2 years with the company, it has never happened.

Operations are being shut down because de-icing the planes become too dangerous when winds exceed 30 mph, Martell said. De-icing technicians work in cherry pickers, which can become unstable and blow over in high winds.

United Airlines will continue operations at O’Hare, but on a severely limited schedule, spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said. They want all customers to check the status of their flights before they go to the airport.

Systemwide, United has canceled about 850 flights throughout the course of the day. Most of those were scheduled to land, take off or stop over at O’Hare.

“I’m stranded till Thursday. They said I have no chance of getting before Thursday,” said Rita Philip who had hoped to make it to Kansas.

Shawn Bowser wasn’t about to wait out the storm in the airport, and with good reason.

“I’m in the Marine Corps and I am on leave before I head to Japan for two years. And this is the last time I will be on leave before I go so I really want to get home,” Bowser said.

So Bowser’s mission on Tuesday was to rent a car and make it home to Moline.

Susmita Paul flew in from India to see her husband in Kansas only to learn that the final leg of her journey was canceled twice. She found it frustrating that she was so close but yet so far from her destination.

Veena Konduru learned of Paul’s situation and offered her a place to stay even though she didn’t know her.

Konduru said it was the right thing to do and she hoped that “someone would do the same thing for me,” if she was stranded in a place she didn’t know.

Max Ring was on his way to Florida and moved up his flight in order to beat the storm. Even though flights were being canceled up and down the board, he seemed confident he was going to make it to Fort Lauderdale.

“I’ll be thinking about you guys as I’m sitting in my easy chair by the pool,” laughed Ring as he and his wife prepared to board one of the last flights to leave O’Hare ahead of the storm.