Video: The Arctic air engulfing most of Canada made travelling a mess, particularly at Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson airport. Jennifer Tryon reports.
TORONTO – Thousands of frustrated passengers breathed a little sigh of relief as Toronto’s Pearson International Airport lifted a “ground stop” that temporarily halted airplane arrivals for hours Tuesday morning due to bad weather.
Officials said the extreme cold weather caused equipment to freeze and safety issues for employees. A “ground stop” in effect until at 9:00 a.m. was extended to 10 a.m., meaning planes were not permitted to land.
But the weather has created significant delays. As of 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, over 750 flights in and out of Pearson Airport have been delayed or cancelled.
READ MORE: Arctic cold engulfs the country
Some passengers, including Edmonton resident Daniel Puhl, had been waiting to fly out of Toronto since Monday night.
“I’ve been here since 7:30 yesterday, waiting for my flight,” said Puhl, who was trying to fly out to Alberta. “Once we got into the plane we were waiting two hours on the tarmac. After waiting for fuel trucks to arrive, they cancelled it.”
Christopher Daley also had a similar experience.
“We sit on the tarmac from 11 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. They were saying that they were waiting for someone to come gas up the plane. So it was really crazy,” he said.
A statement released on the WestJet airlines website said a ground stop was “in effect for Toronto arrivals until 9:00 a.m. ET.”
WestJet passengers were told that to “efficiently process incoming aircraft,” guests will be offloaded as soon as gates become available but baggage will have to remain on board some flights until sometime Tuesday.
However, Pearson airport officials maintain planes were still able to depart.
Meanwhile, Air Canada advises customers to check their flight status on-line before venturing to the airport.
Officials said winter storm conditions in eastern Canada and the U.S. northeast are impacting its operations, resulting in cancelled and delayed flights to and from: Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and U.S. northeast airports.
The announcement came as the Greater Toronto Area deals with extreme cold weather, blizzard and wind chill warnings.
Environment Canada said wind chills could reach minus 30 to minus 40 degrees Celsius today and into this evening.
Toronto NDP MP Olivia Chow referenced the delays at Pearson airport with a tweet Tuesday morning to the Greater Toronto Airport Authority.
“Surely the Greater Toronto Airport Authority saw the weather forecast and have a plan? This performance is not acceptable,” she wrote.
As of 12:20 p.m., 423 scheduled flights have been cancelled at Pearson airport.
Meanwhile, the polar temperatures have forced several school boards to cancel bus services Tuesday morning including Toronto District School Board, the largest in Canada.
Bus services were also cancelled in York, Peel and Waterloo Regions.
Much of the country remains under a deep freeze with bone-chilling temperatures as low as -36C in Regina.
ABOVE: The full Skytracker weather forecast for Toronto and the GTA for Monday, January 7