Stranded, Sleeping Passengers Get 4:00am Wake-Up Call at ORD

Jul 29, 2018

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On Monday, July 24, several United flights out of Chicago O’Hare (ORD) were canceled late in the evening, leaving “hundreds” of passengers stranded overnight at the airport. At 4:00am the next day, airport security woke the travelers — young and old — to retrieve the cots and blankets that had been provided.

United passenger Liz Smith was booked on United flight 1610, which was scheduled to depart at 7:32pm Monday evening. “Our flight was initially delayed for a half hour due to a late inbound aircraft,” Smith told TPG. “Once the aircraft arrived, we were told there were mechanical issues. For the next few hours, we were told they were working on the problem, and eventually we were told that another aircraft would be found.”

It wasn’t until around 12:30am on Tuesday that United canceled and rescheduled Smith’s flight for later that morning — too late for Smith to book an accommodation for the night. The flight ultimately ended up departing at 5:59am.

Throughout the night, United provided small snacks and meal vouchers, and the Chicago Department of Aviation handed out cots and blankets for the passengers at the request of United. Overall, the experience was not ideal, Smith said.

“The passengers waiting at the gate for hours in the cold airport included many families with very young children, and several elderly people including two in wheelchairs,” recalled Smith. ” … These passengers were forced to wait at the gate for up to six hours to hear if [the] flight was canceled, and were not allowed to leave to get hotel rooms provided by United. [It was] unacceptable.”

Other flights were allegedly canceled earlier in the night. Smith commented that, “passengers whose flights were canceled at a reasonable hour were able to get to hotel rooms that were paid for by United.”

Smith shared images of her experience at ORD on Twitter.

Then, promptly at 4:00am, airport security began waking sleeping travelers of all ages to retrieve the cots and blankets. It was a rude awakening, Smith said.

“They came down the rows of cots yelling at people and kicking on the legs of cots to wake people up,” Smith told TPG.

“Entire families were waking up in a daze, not knowing where they were and were expected to get up with all of their things and ‘move along’ immediately,” she recalled.

We reached out to United for a statement on the incident. Here’s what the airline said:

“We know that excessive delays are frustrating for our customers, and we provided compensation for this inconvenience and have apologized to those affected by the overnight delays on Monday evening in Chicago. We issued hotel vouchers for some customers before area hotels were sold out and others who remained at the airport overnight were provided cots, blankets and pillows, as well as meal vouchers. We are following up with our team at O’Hare to better understand what happened.”

TPG also got in touch with the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA), who provided the blankets and cots through the Passenger Assistance Program, for a statement. The CDA said the following:

“The Passenger Assistance Program (PAP) is designed to provide comfortable accommodations overnight when flights are delayed or have been canceled by the airlines. Initiated at the request of its airline partners, Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) staff oversees the PAP between the hours of 9:00pm and 4:00am, until the next daily operations resume.”

The CDA explained that the cots are retrieved at an early hour so that the airport can be cleaned in time for regular airport operations to begin.

TPG encourages readers to sign up for a credit card that provides protection for delayed flights since inconvenient and uncomfortable delays are almost inevitable these days.

Featured image by Liz Smith (@lizsmithmfa).

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