‘A whole gong present’: Winter storm upends vacation air journey in Canada, thwarting household gatherings and extra

‘A whole gong present’: Winter storm upends vacation air journey in Canada, thwarting household gatherings and extra

Linda Ricker hasn’t spent Christmas together with her son since 2020. That yr, she travelled from her Florida house to go to him in Halifax, the place he attends college. After quarantining for 2 weeks, she was capable of get pleasure from high quality time together with her solely little one.

This yr, Ricker thought, could be completely different. COVID-19 restrictions are not in impact for air journey. It may very well be a “regular” Christmas once more.

However after a large winter storm struck throughout Canada on Friday, air journey was upended. Lots of of flights had been severely delayed or cancelled, leaving passengers stranded and unable to reunite with family members for the vacations.

Ricker’s son was one of many hundreds affected — his Air Canada flight from Halifax to Fort Myers was cancelled, leaving him not sure of vacation plans.

At the very least 60 departing flights had been cancelled at Toronto’s Pearson Worldwide Airport on Christmas Day, the airport mentioned. Roughly 80 arrivals had been additionally cancelled, whereas many passengers skilled hours-long delays.

WestJet mentioned 32 of its flights scheduled for Sunday had been cancelled, after a whole bunch of others had been cancelled Friday and Saturday.

Based on the flight monitoring software program FlightAware, as of Sunday afternoon there had been greater than 200 flights cancelled at Pearson within the earlier 24 hours.

Ricker’s son was finally rebooked to fly to Toronto on Monday. He would then have to attend nearly 20 hours to fly to New York earlier than arriving in Florida late Tuesday night time.

“It simply made no sense, as a result of his return flight was on Dec. 30, so we’d have had two days collectively for him to be in transit for 26 hours?” Ricker mentioned.

‘A whole gong present’: Winter storm upends vacation air journey in Canada, thwarting household gatherings and extra

She tried to cancel the flight on Air Canada’s web site, however was informed to contact a customer support agent. And nobody was choosing up.

“You may’t go surfing to cancel and once they inform you to name somebody, you possibly can’t do this both,” she mentioned. “I’m frightened we’re going to finish up paying for these flights we don’t need.”

Many passengers, like Ricker, are within the lurch with out communication from the airways on rescheduled flights, misplaced baggage or what compensation they might be entitled to.

Peter Buchanan mentioned that he had been awake for 30 hours after his Friday flight was rescheduled to Saturday night. That was removed from his first disappointment.

He was scheduled to go away on a piece journey to Zurich at 9:15 a.m. on Dec. 23, however the flight was regularly delayed, till air passengers had been capable of board at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday. There, one other two hours handed earlier than the airplane doorways had been closed and the protection video was performed.

“At that time, we had been pondering the flight could be leaving,” he mentioned. However quarter-hour later the pilot mentioned that by the point the airplane landed in Zurich, it will put the crew over their designated shift time. Due to this fact, the flight was cancelled.

More than 50 departing flights were cancelled at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Christmas Day, with more than 75 arrivals cancelled.

At 5 a.m., Buchanan retrieved his luggage — he described it as a “a whole free-for-all” with baggage on the identical flights positioned on completely different carousels, and dozens of unclaimed luggage strewn on the ground. Through the two-day delay, Buchanan mentioned no complimentary meals or drinks had been supplied to the affected passengers.

“At no level was there any phrase of compensation or an perspective of actually making an attempt to assist us,” he mentioned. “I’m loyal to Air Canada however this was a whole gong present.”

For its half, the airline pointed to the extenuating circumstances. “Regardless of winter storms wreaking havoc throughout North America, Air Canada staff have been working very onerous in extreme situations over latest days and have safely transported a whole bunch of hundreds of shoppers to be with family members over the vacations,” a spokesperson mentioned Saturday.

Lindsay Sahota’s WestJet flight from Vancouver to Toronto was cancelled on Thursday. The preliminary cause offered in writing from the airline was “crew controllable in YYZ,” that means the explanation for the cancellation was throughout the airline’s management.

However at boarding time, she overheard buyer brokers telling passengers the flight was delayed resulting from climate points in Toronto.

Sahota needed to wait two hours to choose up her baggage, however one of many two objects by no means arrived. She was informed on the airport to file a declare for misplaced baggage on-line. When she went house and filed the declare, a pop-up on the web site informed her she wanted to talk to a customer support agent.

“It took three hours on the decision, however somebody from WestJet lastly filed the declare for me,” she mentioned. “I’m nonetheless undecided the place that baggage is … that flight by no means left the airport.”

Some passengers were stranded for hours and missed holiday plans after bad weather forced flight cancellations before Christmas.

She was planning to go to household in Toronto, the primary Christmas with them because the pandemic started. With no rescheduled flight, she’s unable to make plans to mark the vacations together with her family members throughout the nation.

“I simply marvel, was it truly the climate or staffing points? There’s simply been no communication and it’s irritating. Even simply to know that we would be capable of hop on a flight in a couple of days could be useful however they’re leaving us at nighttime.”

WestJet’s chief operations officer, Diederik Pen, mentioned the corporate apologizes for the disruptions to vacation journey plans and its groups try to get well operations on the bottom and within the air.

Whereas Surroundings Canada known as off the winter storm warning for Toronto and the GTA, departures delayed by hours had been nonetheless a standard sight on Pearson’s web site on Sunday afternoon.

On Thursday, Air Canada mentioned because of the winter storm, “a goodwill refund coverage” could be carried out, permitting prospects to request a refund or journey voucher if the ticket was bought no later than Dec. 21 for journey between Dec. 22 and Dec. 26. The flight should even be to or from an airport in Canada.

“Should you’re scheduled to journey through the affected interval, you possibly can retrieve your reserving to request a refund as much as two hours earlier than departure, freed from cost in your Air Canada flight,” the Air Canada web site says.

However even when refunds or compensation are supplied, many air passengers have missed spending the vacations with family members.

For Ricker, it means her 22-year-old son spent Christmas alone in Halifax, after a making an attempt two years from the pandemic.

“We had been each so annoyed and emotional yesterday,” she mentioned. “He’s there by himself and doesn’t have anybody. I clearly miss him quite a bit. We solely see one another twice a yr.”

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