A fire at a suburban Chicago air traffic control facility caused 22 flights from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to be canceled Friday morning.
All flights in and out of Chicago's two busy airports were halted because of an intentionally set fire at the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, Ill. The move caused delays and cancellations throughout the nation's air travel network, as more than 850 flights were canceled in Chicago and more were expected. The Federal Aviation Administration said the region's airspace was transferred to other facilities — but it's unclear how long the stoppage would last.
Patrick Hogan, spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission in the Twin Cities, said "we're not seeing a lot of impact, but there be may delays" beyond the cancellations.
The 22 flights that were canceled Friday morning from Minneapolis were slated to arrive at Chicago O'Hare International Airport and Chicago Midway International Airport, he said. Local cancellations to O'Hare included flights by American Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. Flights by Southwest Airlines and Delta were canceled from MSP to Midway.
"It's not chaotic [at the airport], but there certainly are people trying to get out on their flights," he said.
Hogan said MSP averages about 80 flights a day to and from Chicago, so up to 9,000 people could be affected by the loss of service.
The effects of the crisis reached the Twin Cities quickly Friday.
Chris Rolson, of south Minneapolis, boarded a 6 a.m. Spirit Airlines flight to O'Hare Airport in Chicago and the plane taxied out to the runway. But after about 20 minutes, the pilot informed passengers the flight was canceled because of the fire. "There were a bunch of people sighing, some people cursed; it was just people being frustrated," Rolson said.
Rolson, who was traveling to Chicago to attend a wedding, said there was a scrum at the Spirit Airlines gate in Terminal 2 (Humphrey) Friday morning, as waylaid passengers tried to rebook their flights and make alternate plans.
"I guess we're fortunate we weren't in the air," he said. "But this is really confusing."
Minneapolis businessman Christopher Boldt, who was supposed to go through Chicago on his way to Cleveland from MSP, posted his frustrations on Facebook.
"I ended up booking a new one-way flight direct to Cleveland. It was not cheap," he said. "Now I'm getting text messages about the continued delays for my original flight, my canceled Cleveland flight, and a rebooking for 4 p.m. TOMORROW. Well, let's just hope my direct flight works out. So far it shows 'on time.' "
Not all flights en route to Minneapolis were delayed, however.
Andrew Miller, a client relationship project manager for the Minneapolis-based marketing agency Fast Horse, said his Delta flight took off promptly from Cleveland Friday at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time and arrived in Minneapolis also on time. "We're totally unaffected," the St. Paul resident said.