Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Travel Problems

How snow storms can affect holiday season travel

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FARGO — Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) is a John Hughes comedy starring Steve Martin and John Candy. It features a massive winter storm that shuts down the Chicago O'Hare Airport two days before Thanksgiving, diverting their flight to Wichita, Kansas.

Neal and Del must find their way back to Chicago on their own. Chicago native John Hughes did not have to search hard for this realistic plot.

2,500 flights go through O'Hare each day to nearly 250 destinations domestically and internationally.

It is the 2nd busiest airport in the United States and serves as a hub for American and United Airlines. Add a snow storm to the mix and delays and cancellations at O’Hare can easily cause cross country travel chaos.

Most of John Hughes' films take place during the winter time and in Chicago, and the 1979 Chicago Blizzard may have been the inspiration for the snow storm in the movie.


Fast forward 31 years later and right around Thanksgiving of 2018, a very strong snow storm produced well over eight inches across most of the Chicago metro.

Over 1,300 flights were canceled due to the snow storm. Aircraft already en route could not land at O’Hare. Once the snow storm ended it took days for all the airlines to get straightened out and caught up.

Neal and Del knew that traveling by air was no longer an option if they wanted to be home for Thanksgiving, and any other mode of transportation would get them home faster than waiting for the next available flight.

Holiday travelers should always be prepared for these issues. There are more people traveling during the holidays, and a big storm anywhere can impact air travel wherever you are going.

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