Air travel snarled as storms hit Atlantic Canada and U.S. Northeast
Flights cancelled as heavy snowfall ends in Ontario and continues to the east
Air Canada says it is doing "everything possible to get customers to their destination as soon as possible" after Friday's winter storm caused travel chaos at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Hundreds of flights were cancelled or delayed on Friday — and hundreds more on Saturday — as the storms blew into Atlantic Canada and the U.S. Northeast, snarling air traffic for yet another day.
For the time being Air Canada is advising only passengers with confirmed departures to go to Pearson, the country;s busiest airport.
Could take days to clear backlog
"Customers who do not yet have confirmed seats are requested to consult booking options available online at aircanada.com, in order to avoid lengthy call centre wait times due to high call volume," the airline said in a news release on Saturday afternoon.
"When airport conditions improve, we will deploy additional flights and larger aircraft if available to help get customers on their way. With the storm now impacting Atlantic Canada and the Eastern seaboard still feeling the lingering effects, it is expected that it might take several days to accommodate all passengers and we thank them for their patience," Klaus Goersch, Air Canada's executive vice president and COO was quoted as saying.
Make alternate travel plans
Air Canada has also said it will allow travellers booked on flights on Saturday and Sunday to make alternative travel arrangements without penalty — if space permits.
Travellers are asked to use Air Canada's self service rebooking tool at aircanada.com, on their mobile device, or by contacting Air Canada Reservations toll free in Canada and the U.S. at 888-247-2262; TTY: 1-800-361-8071 or Air Canada Reservations worldwide.
The airline advises customers to expect increased wait times.
What's happening at Pearson is expected to have a ripple effect at airports across Canada and elsewhere.
Penny Fennell from Georgia spent the night at the Toronto airport.
Her flight was stuck at the gate for hours and then cancelled. She said she finally managed to arrange a 3 p.m. connecting flight to Minneapolis for Saturday.
"I don't blame the weather on anybody. The poor customer service agents that are up there are going to get killed today as they did yesterday. Poor restaurant workers can't keep up.
"So I have absolutely nothing but sympathy and compassion for them. I do think the whole way that this was handled was the communication was really bad," she said.
Jake Boyd of Toronto is another unlucky traveller. When he spoke to CBC News on Saturday morning he had been stuck at Pearson for 24 hours.
He was hoping to travel on WestJet to San Francisco, with a stopover in Las Vegas. Instead, he spent the night at the airport, sleeping on a bench.
Boyd said the experience wasn't "too bad," but added many people were upset by the wait.
He said he's hopeful he can get on a flight at 4 p.m. ET and thankful he is not one of the passengers who were planning to travel to the U.S. Northeast or Atlantic Canada, which were both being pounded by a blizzard Saturday.