O’Hare Airport closes 2 runways as air travel plummets over COVID-19

WGN Investigates

CHICAGO — The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced flights so significantly at O’Hare Airport that it has closed two of its seven runways.

In a typical month, O’Hare and Midway Airports have more than 89,000 arrivals and departures, servicing 8.2 million passengers.

A source told WGN Investigates that flight operations at both airports are now down roughly 50 percent.

With new federal guidelines encouraging social distancing to continue for the month, and Illinois’ stay-at-home order extended just as long, the airlines have slashed their schedules.

The result? Parts of O’Hare have turned into a parking lot for planes.

Dozens of planes are parked on unused taxiways. Many more have been flown to airfields in the desert like this one WGN visited in New Mexico last fall.

“I think one of the things where Chicago is most impacted is because it’s a hub for two major international carriers, a lot of the regional flights we would normally be seeing here has dried up as airlines cut to essential services, basically,” said Ian Petchenik, FlightRadar24.com.

One example of how few people are flying: The TSA reports the number of people who passed through security checkpoints nationwide Tuesday was down 93 percent from the same day last year.

The CEO of Chicago-based United told employees last week that if the recovery is as slow as he fears, the airline and workforce will be downsized.

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