'Suspicious' bag blamed for Winnipeg airport evacuation

RCMP say a "suspicious" abandoned bag is what prompted the evacuation of the Winnipeg's international airport around 7 a.m. Sunday morning.

Passengers were allowed back into the airport shortly after 8 a.m.

Travellers were told to leave the airport Sunday morning after a security incident. (Ify Chiwetelu/CBC)

RCMP say a "suspicious" abandoned bag is what prompted the evacuation of the Winnipeg's international airport around 7 a.m. Sunday.

Passengers were allowed back inside shortly after 8 a.m. according to the email from RCMP. 

About 2,000 people had to leave the building and congregated in the airport parking lot and a total of 17 flights were delayed.

At the time officials released few details about the incident, saying only there was a "possible security incident" that people at the airport should follow directions on the airport's website and those on their way to the facility should check with their airlines for the latest flight information.

A spokesperson for WestJet said four outbound flights alone from the carrier were delayed for between 18 and 72 minutes, but no incoming flights were affected. 

Frustrated travellers experienced lengthy delays going through security, with the line up snaking its way through the entire terminal and looping back again.

Hundreds wait in the security line after being allowed back into James A. Richardson International Airport Sunday morning. The airport was evacuated at 7 a.m. due to a security incident. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Claire Renic, who was at the airport to drop off her boyfriend's family, says she was among the throngs of people left waiting outside the building for 45 minutes, starting at about 7:30 a.m.

She said Winnipeg Richardson International Airport was evacuated of travellers and staff alike.

Renic said police vehicles and armoured cars could be seen nearby, but it wasn't clear what was going on.

A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport said the situation was resolved at around 8:15 a.m., less than an hour after the airport was evacuated.

The evacuation order was lifted at about 8:15 a.m.

Fredo Ali Kamara was travelling to Edmonton Sunday and said he had been waiting in the security line for more than an hour.

"Of course, I'm frustrated … but I know it is a security problem, and it is for our own safety that things were delayed."

Adrian Macartney and his family were caught up in the evacuation and said, while waiting in the security line, that their plane was supposed to leave in 10 minutes.

"Apparently they're holding [planes] indefinitely, but we don't know what indefinitely means. They're just going to keep holding them until we get on?"

He said his family has a six-hour delay in Edmonton before going home to Vancouver, so he's hopeful they will make their connecting flight.

Tyler MacAfee, spokesperson for the airport, said there have been previous evacuations at the airport and after each evacuation procedures were scrutinized and evacuation plans updated. 

"In this one, the messages that we put out on the loudspeaker are a bit different, how we prioritize flights, so today, those flights that needed to get out first, those are the passengers that we identified once they came back inside the building. We got those people through security first."

MacAfee said he understands passengers' frustrations with the delay.

"This isn't the experience we want anyone to have travelling through our airport. But again, these situations happen, safety and security are always going to be top of mind."

With files from Austin Grabish and The Canadian Press