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Uptick in cancelled flights due to wickedly cold weather in Alberta

File: Passengers check in for flights to the U.S. at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Dec. 2, 2021. Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

Canadian air travellers are experiencing an uptick in flight cancellations this holiday season, but airlines say weather is a bigger factor than COVID-19.

Canada’s largest airlines cancelled hundreds of flights between Dec. 22 and Dec. 26.

Airline data company Cirium said Flair Airlines cancelled nine per cent of its scheduled flights while WestJet Airlines Ltd. cancelled seven per cent of its flights.

Air Canada cancelled four per cent of its scheduled flights during the period.

U.S. airlines have also cancelled a large number of flights this holiday season. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines said they cancelled flights because of staff shortages tied to the Omicron variant.

But Canadian airlines say most of their cancellations have been weather related. Snow and frigid weather in Western Canada have caused travel disruptions.

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Read more: Environment Canada issues extreme cold warning for Alberta on Boxing Day

In a statement sent to Global News, a WestJet spokesperson said the last few days were some of its busiest since before the pandemic, with nearly 50,000 guests per day and more than 500 flights.

“While the weather is definitely a primary factor affecting stations across western Canada in recent days including B.C., Alta., Sask. and Man., other factors do impact operations including maintenance, air traffic control and staffing,” the email stated.

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“At this time, we are staffed appropriately to support the busy holiday travel season across late December and early January. Leading into peak season, WestJet has been actively recalling and hiring with the expectation we will reach 9,000 fully trained WestJetters by the end of the year which is more than twice as many WestJetters as we had at our lowest point in the pandemic.”

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The company said it has also added more than 600 new contact centre agents since June to help with increased volume.

With files from Jessika Guse, Global News

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