By Courtney Challos
Tribune Staff Writer
August 6, 2000

For the second day in a row, crew shortages turned Saturday's minor weather problems into major headaches for United Airlines passengers traveling through O'Hare International Airport.

Since Friday, United has canceled at least 300 flights in and out of the airport, said Chris Brathwaite, a United spokesman.

Bad weather on the East Coast and in Denver also spilled over to Chicago, and other airlines reported minor weather-related problems.

Since April, when a six-year contract expired, United pilots have refused to work overtime, which has contributed to the airline being short-staffed, Brathwaite said.

"We're in a situation where we're just trying to get our head above water," said Brathwaite, who apologized for the inconvenience. He added that negotiating teams have been meeting with pilots four or five times a week and that the airline hopes to have a contract worked out as soon as possible. Labor Day has been set as a target by pilots and the airline to get a new contract.

The pilots' union has denied any organized effort to refuse to work overtime.

American Airlines had canceled 18 of its flights at O'Hare as of mid-Saturday because of bad weather, said Mary Frances Fagan, a spokeswoman for American.

"From all perspectives, there have been some delays, but nothing that's outrageous," she said.

The National Weather Service reported showers and thunderstorms in the Chicago area that lasted through early afternoon.

By midday, a line of thunderstorms north of Illinois was moving east and expected to brush the northern parts of McHenry and Lake Counties, said Ann McCarthy, a meteorologist with the weather service.