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Flights cancelled at Vancouver’s airport with passengers stuck on tarmac for hours

Click to play video: 'Frustration and chaos at YVR after flights temporarily suspended'
Frustration and chaos at YVR after flights temporarily suspended
WATCH: The heavy snow across the South Coast continues to cause havoc. The conditions leading to widespread problems at YVR. As Emily Lazatin reports, flights are stuck in limbo with passengers uncertain when they will be able to leave – Dec 20, 2022

The heavy snow that fell across Metro Vancouver overnight has significantly impacted operations at Vancouver International Airport.

There were no flights departing YVR on Tuesday morning, as crews worked to get arriving passengers off several planes that were stuck at their gates, and to clear the airfield and aircraft of snow and ice.

As of 6 p.m., the airport remained under a “ground stop,” meaning no new flights to Vancouver were departing from their airports of origin. Flights that were already in the air may continue to arrive, but have in many cases been left stranded on the apron due to a shortage of available gates.

WestJet says 210 flights were cancelled as of 6 p.m. on Tuesday, mostly due to the ground stop as well as frigid tempertures in Edmonton and Calgary.

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Monday was the airport’s busiest day of the year so far, with about 70,000 people coming through, and the airport says the days before Christmas are its busiest travel week of the year.

It was not immediately clear how the ripple effect of the mass cancellations and crowding at the airport will play out on flights scheduled for those coming crucial days.

In a statement last issued at 1:20 p.m., Vancouver airport staff said the winter storm had an “unprecedented impact on flights, affecting operations at YVR, with mass cancellations overnight.”

While a small number of flights have now been able to depart, cancellations and delays will persist for the majority of scheduled flights, the airport said in the statement.

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Staff are working to provide food, water, and any other needed assistance to passengers throughout the terminal buildings.

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While it isn’t currently snowing at the airport, de-icing operations will continue to be necessary.

“We recognize the impact this has had on travellers. We are incredibly grateful for their patience as well as the professionalism of flight crews as ground teams continue to work to get people off aircraft as soon as is safely possible,” the statement continued.

Click to play video: 'B.C. snow storm cancels flights at Vancouver’s airport, passengers stuck on tarmac for hours'
B.C. snow storm cancels flights at Vancouver’s airport, passengers stuck on tarmac for hours

Some passengers told Global News they have been stuck on the tarmac for hours.

Passenger Garrett Forster, who arrived from Calgary at 12:30 a.m. and was still stuck on the plane at 7 a.m., said tensions inside his aircraft were starting to ramp up.

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“There’s more people moving around,” he said. “We just had another round of drink service which is kinda nice, gotta get some liquids in us, but other than that there’s a lot of tension. People just wanna get off this flight.

“There’s kids on here, some older people. We just wanna get off this flight. It’s been far too long.”

Click to play video: 'Province comes under fire for snow removal'
Province comes under fire for snow removal

YVR said crews are working as fast as they can to get passengers off safely and get them their luggage.

In an unprecedented move, staff at the airport have been making grocery runs to Costco to hand out food and water to people waiting in the terminal.

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Lines are reportedly at least a mile long inside the airport and some kiosks and food vendors are closed.

Vancouver airport staff making Costco grocery runs to give food and water to people waiting inside the terminal. Corey Callahan / Global News
Vancouver airport staff making Costco grocery runs to give food and water to people waiting inside the terminal. Corey Callahan / Global News
Vancouver airport staff making Costco grocery runs to give food and water to people waiting inside the terminal. Corey Callahan / Global News

Passengers who were expecting to fly Tuesday and this week were advised to check with their airline directly on the status of their flight, YVR officials said, and people should not come to the airport if they do not absolutely need to.

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On Tuesday, Air Passenger Rights Canada’s independent nonprofit consumer advocacy group for air travellers, filed its report with the House of Commons Transport Committee on the Air Passenger Protection Regulations.

The report shows that Canada’s air passenger protection regime is unnecessarily complex, creates barriers to access to justice for passengers, and does not offer adequate protection to Canadians, according to the organization.

Air Passenger Rights’s report urges harmonization with the European Union’s passenger protection regime. The full report is available online.

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