St. John's flights return to normal

Some flights in and out of St. John's International Airport resumed Monday, after Environment Canada said the risk of volcanic ash reaching airspace over the province was low.

Concern about volcanic ash cancelled some flights Monday morning

Travellers at St. John's International Airport adjusted to delays and cancellations on Monday. ((CBC))

Some flights in and out of St. John's International Airport resumed Monday, after Environment Canada said the risk of volcanic ash reaching airspace over the province was low.

Air Canada, Porter Airlines and WestJet all rescheduled flights amid a day of confusion over whether volcanic ash from Iceland would jeopardize travel.

An Air Canada plane sits at a gate at the St. John's International Airport on Friday as most flights into and out of St. John's were either delayed or cancelled by a thick fog that covered the area. ((Canadian Press/Paul Daly))

In the end, the culprit proved to be fog, a regular feature of spring in St. John's. Fog was heavy at the airport through much of the day, contributing to numerous delays and cancellations. 

Late Sunday night, British authorities warned ash from Iceland was heading for Newfoundland, prompting several airlines to cancel flights to and from St. John's.

Transport Canada and Nav Canada had informed the St. John's airport there was about a 30 per cent chance the ash will hit St. John's airspace, an airport spokeswoman said late Sunday.

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Air Canada, WestJet and Porter Airlines cancelled flights as a precaution on Sunday evening until 9 a.m. local time Monday, St. John's airport spokeswoman Marie Manning said. At least 13 flights, including one from Continental Airlines, have been cancelled, according to the airport authority's website.

Monday's weather continued a stretch of heavy fog that had played havoc with the Juno Awards, well before they even started. On Friday, heavy fog pushed back the arrival of hundreds of celebrants.

Sheila Shook, who flew from Toronto to attend the Junos, said the two days she spent coming to St. John's may be matched by her departure.

Jude Coombe, office manager with Blue Rodeo, said an extended stay in St. John's is not that bad at all. ((CBC))

"We were supposed to leave at 6:15 this morning, so we knew that flight was cancelled, and then we came here this morning to re-book. They suggested [another] flight, and now this one is also cancelled," said Shook.

"And now we have to get our luggage off the carousel again."

Among the stranded were legendary rock band Blue Rodeo and their support team. Office manager Jude Coombe said it's stressful juggling the changes for 21 different people, but she said the group has been making the most of an extended stay in St. John's.

"It was funny last night, because everyone was so panicked, and then rumours were running rampant that, you know, we were here for a week — which I was also fine with," she said with a laugh.

The delays were not aggravating for everybody. Braedan Sheppard, a student visiting from Labrador City, was visibly excited when he learned his flight home had been postponed.

"We get another day in the mall.  Because our mall isn't as big, and we don't [have] a theatre or nothing," he said.

The weather also affected flights within Newfoundland and Labrador, including Air Canada connections between St. John's, Deer Lake and Gander.

Environment Canada issued a statement for Newfoundland and Labrador Monday morning saying the risk of ash blowing in to Canadian airspace is low.

"The Canadian Meteorological Centre considers that there is a low probability of risk as satellite imagery does not support ash presence in high concentrations," it said.

Since Thursday, millions of passengers have had flights cancelled or delayed because of a ban on air travel over large swaths of Europe as the ash cloud from a volcano in Iceland continued to spread.