A Guide to Getting Home After the Conference

Online News Association attendee Antoinette Siu was supposed to fly home Sunday morning to cover Oprah Winfrey’s appearance at the dedication of the Syracuse University Newhouse Studio and Innovation Center the following day.

Her travel plans, however, have been canceled by American Airlines.

Her situation stems from Friday’s fire at a Chicago-area radar facility. More than 600 flights were canceled at O’Hare International Airport by early afternoon on Saturday. At Midway International Airport, more than 70 flights were canceled.

Airlines were using social media Saturday as a customer service tool. Passengers have been tweeting their flight issues and airlines such as Delta, United and American have responded with support.

At ONA, companies like Banjo showcased tools that can assist reporters in crowdsourcing content. They compile tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram photos using geolocation to develop a feed like this example of social media related to delays at O’Hare and Midway in Chicago

Events like Friday’s fire at O’Hare, which knock out part of the air traffic control system, can be very disruptive to the airline industry, said Benet Wilson, an aviation journalist since 1992 and ONA board member.

“When Chicago goes down, it’s a ripple effect that goes across the world, not just in the United States,” she said.

The Chicago Department of Aviation recommends passengers contact their airlines to get updated information.

For Siu, contacting American Airlines involved an hour and a half wait to speak with a live customer service representative. American offers a callback feature if all agents are busy so people do not have to wait on hold for that long. She thinks she will make it back for the Newhouse dedication after changing her flight a few times with American.

Airline Tips

United Airlines: United says they are offering changing of travel plans in some cases. They also report very high volume of calls and recommend using the website for the latest information.  

American Airlines: American says customers can change their flights with no charge. They said to check flight status online for the latest information.  

Southwest Airlines: Saturday flights were cancelled between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Southwest is offering passengers holding a reservation thru Oct. 1 to opportunity to change their flight. They will operate on a slow schedule after 2 p.m., according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. Passengers can check their flight information here.  

Delta Airlines: They will also be offering passengers  a chance to change their flight. Passengers can check flight information here.  

Additional Resources

Chicago Area Airports on Social Media:

Major Airlines on Social Media:


Storify of Chicago airport related tweet from ONA attendees