Travellers with plans to fly through Vancouver Vancouver International Airport are being warned that a wave of cancellations and delays brought on by this week’s snowstorm could continue well throughout the Christmas holiday.
On Wednesday, the airport lifted a temporary “ground stop,” allowing new flights to arrive at the facility. However, to help deal with continued congestion on the airfield, it continue to limit the arrival of international flights until at least 5 p.m. on Friday.
While some aircraft were able to get off the ground Wednesday, the departure terminals remained packed with frustrated travellers unsure of when they’ll get off the ground.
Global News was told airport CEO Tamara Vrooman will be speaking publicly about the the chaos at YVR at 1 p.m. Thursday.
“I want to acknowledge it was a really challenging last couple of days for travellers across Canada in airports, and in aircraft,” YVR spokesperson Trevor Boudreau said.
“At times there have been some communications breakdown and that led to lots of questions here on the floor.”
The airport is attributing problems on the ground to the volume of snow that fell between Monday night and Tuesday.
According to Environment Canada, 27 centimetres of snow was measured at the airport by 10 a.m. Tuesday.
“For context that was triple the amount of snow that was forecast, and I don’t think anybody across this region could have ever prepared in that way,” Boudreau said.
“(It) created significant challenges to get aircraft around the airfield, keep the aprons clear of snow and we could not de-ice aircraft.”
Asked whether frustrated passengers would be able to make their destinations by Christmas Day, Boudreau did not sound optimistic.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I have to be frank with folks it’s going to be a challenging next few days and there are going to be continued delays and cancellations,” he said.
Would-be travellers are being urged to check the airport’s website for the latest information regarding flights and operations.
The update comes after two days of mass cancellations and delays due to heavy snowfall.
A quick look at YVR’s arrival and departure web pages shows a long list of mostly delayed or cancelled flights.
Boudreau said the entire YVR community is working hard 24/7 over the next couple of days to support travellers and help them on their way.
“It was really heartening to see our community step up, and volunteer their time — with many of us staying here for 24 hours,” Boudreau told Global News on Wednesday.
A second winter storm is forecast for the region Thursday night into Friday morning. It could bring another 25 cm of snow.
“We are looking at two years of snow in just four days,” he said.
“We will have workers staying close to the airport so we can be fully staffed as best as possible.”
On Wednesday morning as of 10 a.m., WestJet announced it has had to cancel 86 flights across Canada for the day.
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Officials said more cancellations are expected throughout Wednesday as well.
Read more: ‘Colossal mishap’ — Passengers describe sitting on planes at Vancouver airport for hours amid snowstorm
Thousands of delayed travellers were stuck at the airport for hours, some stuck inside planes on the tarmac, on Monday and Tuesday, due to hundreds of cancelled and delayed flights.
Passenger Garrett Forster, who arrived from Calgary at 12:30 a.m. and was still stuck on the plane at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, said tensions inside his aircraft were starting to ramp up.
“There’s more people moving around,” he said. “We just had another round of drink service, which is kind of nice, got to get some liquids in us, but other than that there’s a lot of tension. People just want to get off this flight.
“There’s kids on here, some older people. We just want to get off this flight. It’s been far too long.”
YVR said crews were working as fast as they could to get passengers off and get 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.
Lines are reportedly at least a mile long inside the airport and some kiosks and food vendors are closed.
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.