$63 to Chicago: Tornado Warnings & The Flight Home


Tornado Warnings

At some point during our visit to the Sears Tower Skydeck, a pretty significant storm started to roll in. While waiting on line to go up, everyone’s Verizon phone was sounding off with a crazy tornado alert.

This was actually really cool to watch from the 103rd floor. From here, we could actually see the storm clouds moving and just unloading on the city and Lake Michigan.

chicago sears tower

After enjoying the Skydeck for a while, we decided to get in line to go back down. The line for the elevators going down was worse than going up!

We found out that the delay was because they discontinued the use of the 2 main elevators due to the storm and high winds. Everyone was being shuttled down in the service elevator.

chicago sears tower skydeck

103th Floor!

I guess the service elevator wasn’t battle-ready to take on 103 floors at a time so we had to stop every 20 floors on the way down. Our timing was perfect because they shut down the entire Skydeck due to the storm! Closed for the day.

Via Twitter, I had read that all the bloggers at the Chicago Seminars were herded into a ‘safe room’ at the host hotel so I think we made out a little better than they did.

Same Day Change Ruined

As expected, the storm winds wreaked havoc at O’Hare Airport. At one point, an evacuation order was issued then cancelled, security checkpoints were closed, and there were several flight delays and cancellations.

Because of all that, my plan to Same Day Change to the Monday morning flight was shot. It was Sunday night and all the early Monday flights were zeroed out. The earliest flight I could change to was around 4:00PM Monday afternoon.

However, there was silver lining. Due to some high winds and low ceilings in the NYC area, United issued a travel waiver. That meant I could change everyone in our group (even non-elites) to the 4:00pm nonstop flight into EWR instead of the original ORD-IAD-JFK routing. That saved $75 per change! 


After a long but cheap train ride back to O’Hare, we were ready to finally go home.

Premier Access was once again a savior because regular security lines were long. The Premier Access lines were non-existent. We walked right up on the TSA agent.

I scanned my mobile boarding pass via Passbook (great app, by the way) and the machine beeped 3 times. I was excited because this meant I was cleared for TSA PreCheck! Too bad there was no PreCheck lane at this checkpoint. Come on, ORD, get with it.

We picked up some food at Tortas Frontera, a Mexican sandwich shop from Rick Bayless. If you want some good airport food at ORD Terminal B, these are some great Mexican tortas.

We crossed underground to Terminal C where our gate was and waited for boarding. I knew, by looking at the United app, that this was an internationally configured 757-200.

Too bad I didn’t have a shot in hell at a complimentary upgrade. There were about 15 people ahead of me on that list. Oh well, at least Joann and I settled in at Row 21, roomiest row on the plane!

Since this was an international plane, there was Audio/Video On Demand (AVOD) at every seat for free, unlike the domestic flights with DirectTV that you have to pay for.

Watching a classic – Stand By Me

The flight was uneventful since the weather out of Chicago was now beautiful. It was only a little rough coming into NJ since we were flying into a storm, but the pilot put us down very smoothly and just like that, we were back from our quick weekend in Chi-town.

Leaving EWR

It was our first time using long term parking P6 so we asked someone where we could catch the shuttle. FYI, it’s right across the street from the passenger pickup right outside of baggage claim. Look for the stop marked for long term parking.

We picked up the car, drove up to the exit gates, and didn’t even have to swipe a credit card thanks to E-ZPass Plus. It just went straight to our Chase Sapphire Preferred card to earn us 2 points for “travel”.