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First commercial flight back to Fort McMurray touches down Friday morning

Click to play video: 'Commercial air service resumes at Fort McMurray’s airport' Commercial air service resumes at Fort McMurray’s airport
WATCH ABOVE: The Fort McMurray airport welcomed its first flight Friday morning since a wildfire forced it to shut down one month ago. As Shallima Maharaj reports, it's one more step toward life returning to normal – Jun 10, 2016

The first passengers to step into Fort McMurray International Airport’s arrivals lounge in over a month were greeted Friday morning by airport staff handing out welcome home packages.

Fort McMurray took another major step in its recovery by resuming commercial air service after an enormous wildfire forced the mass evacuation of more than 80,000 people. Air Canada flight 8371 from Calgary landed just after 9 a.m. Friday.

The care packages (containing teddy bears, bottles of water, hand sanitizer, energy bars and notebooks) were handed out to the first few thousand people returning to Fort McMurray International Airport. Free hot drinks were also given out at the Tim Hortons in the airport.

The first flight from Edmonton, West jet flight 4411, took off at 11:30 a.m., arriving at YMM just before 12:30 p.m.

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Airlines will operate at a reduced schedule for the time being, because the Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s airspace restrictions are still in place around Fort McMurray.

WestJet said it would be sending up two flights each day from both Edmonton and Calgary until June 14.

WestJet said it is offering lower fares, as well as an extra 25 per cent discount on flights to Fort McMurray, as well as to Edmonton and Calgary, for reservations made prior to June 15 for travel until June 30. The airline has waived baggage fees until the end of July, however baggage limits remain in place.

The airline has waived pet fees for travel in and out of Fort McMurray until July 31, but kennels must meet size requirements.

Air Canada said it has scheduled larger aircrafts for flights to Edmonton and Calgary to accommodate people returning to Alberta from across Canada. The airline has a flexible re-booking policy in place, and is also offering a 25 per cent discount for domestic flights to Edmonton, Calgary, and Fort McMurray.

Special accommodations have been made for wildfire evacuees to bring their pet dogs and cats in the cabin without kennels.

Evacuees returning with pet carriers, weapons, bikes and won’t have to pay the fees normally assigned to such oversized and sensitive items. Baggage fees are also waived.

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For more details, visit Air Canada and Westjet’s pages.

Watch below: Roland from AMA Travel joined Global News Morning to talk about pets in hotels, the rules of flying with pets, and other dos and don’ts when it comes to travel with your four-legged friends.

Click to play video: 'AMA Travel: What to do when traveling with pets' AMA Travel: What to do when traveling with pets
AMA Travel: What to do when traveling with pets – Jun 10, 2016

Passengers travelling through the airport are advised that services will be limited, and were told to expect security delays when departing. The airport advised passengers to arrive at least 90 minutes before their scheduled departure time.

There will also be limited food and beverage outlets. The airport convenience store will only be open 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. for the time being. The Earls restaurant inside the airport tweeted that it was working to re-open, and hoped to have groceries flown in on Saturday. The airport said it hopes to have all concessions open sometime next week.

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The boil water advisory was still in place when the airport opened, so people were reminded to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer after washing their hands with soap. People were also reminded not to drink the tap water.

Car rental companies are operating and taxi service is available, although the wait for a cab may be longer than usual.

After signing a thank you board acknowledging all the support airport staff have received, Airport CEO Scott Clements talked to the media about the challenges they faced. Clements said the airport usually generates $3 million in revenue each month, but May was essentially a loss because the airport was closed for most of the month.

The airport first announced the June 10 date for commercial air service to resume late last month.

Watch below: Timelapse from a YMM camera begins in the evening of Tuesday, May 3 and ends in the evening of Wednesday, May 4, 2016, showing smoke getting increasingly thicker and a building at the old terminal catching fire. An official with the Rural Municipality of Wood Buffalo said the building is the Nova Hotel which was used by flight crews.

Click to play video: 'Hotel at Fort McMurray airport’s old terminal catches fire' Hotel at Fort McMurray airport’s old terminal catches fire
Hotel at Fort McMurray airport’s old terminal catches fire – May 4, 2016

The boil water advisory was still in place when the airport opened, so people were reminded to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer after washing their hands with soap. People were also reminded not to drink the tap water.

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In another sign of Fort McMurray slowly returning to normal, Alberta Health Services (AHS) lifted a boil water advisory for the community of Grayling Terrace.

On Saturday, AHS lifted a boil water advisory for the Lower Townsite area of Fort McMurray. However, people consuming water in those areas are still being asked to follow certain precautions.

A boil water order remains in effect for all other communities using the same water supply. If you are unsure whether your home is under a boil water advisory, you can look at a map online.

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