"My wife hates to fly ... so she literally asked me if we could rent a car and drive," Winter said, adding that they ruled it out and were rebooked on a Wednesday flight.
Instead, the retired couple stopped off at an airport cocktail lounge.
"So, obviously, we're not in dire straits," he said.
As of about 3:30 p.m., arrivals at O'Hare were about 75 percent of normal — 72 an hour compared with the normal of about 106 per hour, said Doug Church, a spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the union that represents controllers. Departures were operating normally, he said.
O'Hare is the second-busiest airport in the country by numbers of passengers and is a major hub. Around half of passengers there are connecting to other flights.
Any disruption to its operations has an enormous ripple effect on the nation's aviation system.
The Chicago Aviation Department said departures were delayed about 90 minutes late Tuesday at O'Hare and 2½ hours at Midway International Airport.
A computer glitch at a similar facility last month forced a 45-minute shutdown at Los Angeles International Airport.