YVR putting hundreds of stranded passengers up in hotels amid storm delays

Click to play video: 'YVR working to restart after widespread flight cancellations'
YVR working to restart after widespread flight cancellations
WATCH: As hundreds of travellers try to make it home for the holidays, YVR says it's working hard to get back on track amid weather chaos and mass flight cancellations. As Paul Johnson reports, that includes an unprecedented move to accommodate stranded passengers over Christmas – Dec 23, 2022

The Vancouver International Airport said Friday it was extending “care and comfort” for people stranded at the terminal amid cancellations and delays due to a winter storm.

YVR said it was offering 400 rooms at local hotels for up to four nights and restaurant gift cards for travellers facing overnight delays.

“Our primary focus is to safely get passengers on their journey. When extreme weather disrupts those plans for extended periods of time, we understand that passengers face immense challenges – especially if they don’t call Vancouver home,” YVR president and CEO Tamara Vrooman said in a media release.

“Importantly, hotel rooms secured for passengers do not take away from capacity for crew of our airline partners.”

Read more: WestJet cancelling flights across Canada amid storm: ‘Unlike anything we’ve experienced’

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The airport has also set up a designated area in the terminal meant to be more comfortable for travellers who choose not to leave the facility.

Earlier in the day, YVR administrators said the facility was fully operational despite the winter storm.

Vrooman said crews had been out clearing the runways and the taxiways and aircraft was departing Friday morning despite the heavy snow.

“We’re, of course, monitoring for the freezing rain that is expected throughout the region because it does make conditions considerably worse on the roads and also at the airports,” Vrooman said Friday.

“WestJet and Air Canada have cancelled many, many flights, so we’re flying about 50 per cent of our schedule planned today. It looks like passengers have been notified overnight from those two carriers as the terminal is very calm this morning with only passengers arriving whose flights are departing. Mainly flights departed this morning for the U.S. and also large international flights, Aeromexico, Air India and Singapore Airlines.”

Click to play video: 'Vancouver airport says it is ready for the storm Friday'
Vancouver airport says it is ready for the storm Friday

WestJet said Thursday it was proactively cancelling flights at airports in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec due to the winter storms.

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All scheduled flights into and out of YVR between 11:50 p.m. Pacific time Thursday and late Friday afternoon are cancelled.

Other airports affected by the service disruptions include those in Ottawa, London, Montreal, Waterloo, Abbotsford, Victoria, Nanaimo and Comox.

As of Thursday night, WestJet had cancelled 243 flights scheduled for Friday in the Vancouver region, Vancouver Island and southern Ontario and Quebec. That’s on top of 119 cancellations Thursday.

Click to play video: 'YVR chief executive vows airport will be ready for coming storm'
YVR chief executive vows airport will be ready for coming storm

Read more: BC Ferries cancels multiple Friday sailings as winter storm bears down on South Coast

Vrooman said YVR lifted the restriction on inbound international flights Friday morning. The restriction affected about 30 flights across 17 airlines.

Many passengers have been disappointed and stranded this week with cancelled flights and some passengers sitting on planes on the tarmac for upwards of 12 hours.

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“We really have empathy for passengers whose plans were cut short by the weather and the inability to fly, particularly at this time of year after the pandemic,” Vrooman said.

“Many, many people I spoke to in the terminal throughout the last three days, countless stories of people disappointed at not being able to take finally that family trip or being reunited over the holidays. What happened when the first snow fell wasn’t the amount of snow, it was how quickly it fell. And our de-icing systems were fully operational. But just like when you’re shovelling the front walk of your house, when it’s snowing heavily, by the time you get to the end, the snow has already accumulated at the other end and you have to start all over.”

Click to play video: '‘Unprecedented’ chaos at Vancouver International Airport'
‘Unprecedented’ chaos at Vancouver International Airport

Vrooman said it was unacceptable that so many people had to sit on planes on the tarmac for so long.

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“We made changes to redirect aircraft,” she said.

“Usually, what happens is, it’s sort of a like a parking spot, first in, first out. We said, ‘No, we will direct which aircraft go to which gate to ensure that nobody has any length of time waiting on aircraft.’ We made that change. There was no wait on Wednesday. There was no wait on Thursday. And we don’t anticipate any waits today.”

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