Delayed Nova Scotia travellers wait in airport limbo
Ground stop at Toronto's Pearson International Airport exacerbates air travel chaos
Dozens of Nova Scotians are waiting out ongoing travel delays across the country and in the eastern U.S., adding to the number of frustrated travellers in this province affected by cancelled and delayed flights.
Last week's blizzard and cold temperatures have passed, but more flights at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport were cancelled on Tuesday because of severe weather in other parts of North America.
A so-called ground stop at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, where temperatures dropped to –35 C to –40 C with the wind chill overnight, halted nearly all North American arrivals at the airport on Tuesday morning.
The ground stop, also called a ground freeze, was put in place because of the extreme cold's impact on equipment and efforts to minimize time outdoors for employees.
That meant most flights slated to leave Halifax on Tuesday morning were grounded as they were either headed to Toronto or scheduled to stop there en route to destinations further west.
"I have never been stranded like this before in my life," said Christina Schettino-Irish, who is trying to get home to South Carolina.
"It kind of reconfirms I should probably stay down south and not take a trip in the winter."
Schettino-Irish is staying at a hotel with her husband, their 10-year-old daughter and two babies — 21 months and four months old.
They were supposed to leave on Monday, but now Schettino-Irish says they may not get out until the weekend.
Trying to get home
"I've been booked for about 17 to 18 flights now. Either they've been cancelled, airports have been shut down or I've been transferred flights. They said I potentially could get to Toronto to Atlanta, Atlanta to Savannah tomorrow if the airport in Toronto will co-operate with me," she said.
"The airport did give us some diapers and extra formula for the smallest baby and they've given us vouchers for food but I don't know how many times we can eat Burger King this week."
Kimiko Willgress, an Olympian snowboarder who lives in Nova Scotia, has been stuck at the Philadelphia International Airport since Sunday with her husband Scott and their one-year-old son, Jackson.
"It would be easier if we didn't have him with us, for sure, but he's doing really good and he's just gotten really good at taking naps in the stroller and carrier," she told CBC News.
"We just keep him occupied with learning how to walk and crawl around the airport."
Willgress and dozens of other Nova Scotians were hoping to get into Halifax on a U.S. Airways flight on Tuesday afternoon, but that was also cancelled. The next available flight home is Thursday.
"We actually got on our flight and flew for about 40 minutes and our pilot came on and said there were mechanical problems and that we'd have to turn around and land back in Philadelphia — which I guess is a good thing that they turned around," she said.
'Nobody's fault but the weather'
Emily Robinson, a graduate student waiting to get back to Halifax, was supposed to leave Toronto on a WestJet flight at 9 p.m. on Monday. It was delayed repeatedly until about 4.30 a.m., when everyone got on board.
Then the pilot told everyone to get off.
Robinson said that made everyone go silent.
"I'm obviously pretty frustrated, but at this point in time there's nothing we can do about it. Everybody is in the same boat," she said.
"Nobody's fault but the weather."
Robinson also said it's difficult to get a hotel room in Toronto, because so many people are stuck.
WestJet agents were handing out taxi vouchers in Halifax on Tuesday morning.
Peter Spurway, a spokesman for the Halifax International Airport Authority, said staff have baby food, diapers, dog food and cat food on hand if travellers need them.