A Sneak Peek at The Sneak “Peak”

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Arriving on a weeknight at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is rarely a good time, but when it comes to Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday night, the experience can border on terror. It’s not totally unexpected. As a matter of fact, everyone knows its coming. It is essentially the busy period – or “peak” – of our daily routine.

Starting around 3:00 pm, the first inkling that trouble is brewing will present itself; a minor backup in the terminals, or maybe an increase in traffic through the terminal area. However, the part that the traveling public doesn’t see is more of an indicator of what is about to happen.

As “zero hour” approaches, the major arterial highways leading into the airport begin to clog with the first wave of shift workers heading to and from their jobs. This is also when traffic into the airport departure level picks up (early afternoon seems to be a good time to “get out of Dodge”). In addition, people live around the airport, so this truly is a “perfect storm” of human migration. With this mixture of elements interacting, it doesn’t take much of a spark to get the heat going. A stalled car, an accident, or a little weather will turn that storm into a bubbling cauldron of vehicles and traffic. An airport run that would normally take 20 minutes could quickly change to an uphill battle lasting an hour…or more. This is the view a limo service has of the situation.

A client has a different viewpoint. After flying for any number of hours and walking through a usually busy O’Hare Airport, he gathers his luggage and calls for his ride. With no idea of the conditions outside the terminal, he – perhaps justifiably – expects his car to be waiting outside the terminal for him, and after a walk of a few yards to be merrily on his way home, to the hotel, or wherever this trip is taking him. So much for fairy tales…and that’s the sneaky part. Reservation or not, his car probably won’t be waiting outside, because instead of sitting in the holding lot, he’s sitting in traffic trying to get into the airport. Instead of casually walking outside to a waiting vehicle, he will need to wait for his car to get through the morass of commercial and private vehicles just to make it into the terminal area…only to wait longer as his car approaches at worm-like speed. When he finally gets in his ride, he will enjoy the manic escape routine as the poorly designed exit roadway shifts configurations, until finally being deposited onto a clogged arterial roadway to nowhere.

It sounds horrible, because it can be. But the important thing to remember is that your limo company or driver has no control over this situation, and all companies have the same challenges when it comes to navigating O’Hare. Like ripping off a Band-Aid, sometimes knowing that the pain is coming makes it hurt a little less.

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Dale Schahczinski
Goal driven team leader, with industry experience spanning all aspects of operations and administration.