Hundreds of cancellations at Toronto's Pearson airport due to wintry weather

Wintry conditions and high winds caused hundreds of cancellations at Toronto's Pearson airport on Monday.

High winds mean fewer flights getting off the ground, delays expected to persist into evening

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority says the windy weather resulted in a number of flights being delayed Monday afternoon and the lag is expected to continue into the evening, especially on arriving flights. (Jonathan Castell/CBC)

Wintry conditions and high winds led to hundreds of cancellations at Canada's busiest airport Monday, despite an extreme cold weather alert being lifted for Toronto and the surrounding area.

WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart said 16 of the airline's flights were cancelled during a brief stop at Pearson International Airport, before traffic began moving again.

Crowds gather as delays at Toronto's Pearson International Airport continue into Monday night. (Larry Guerriero/CBC)

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority confirmed the windy weather resulted in a number of flights being cancelled or delayed in the afternoon through to the evening, especially on arriving flights, said GTAA spokesperson Beverly MacDonald.

As of 8:45 p.m., more than 200 flights had been cancelled, including 119 arrivals and 106 departures.

"It's just a lower rate to make sure that, in between each flight, everything is smooth and efficient on the ground, and safe. So instead of trying to have higher numbers taking off or departing at once, we just reduce that rate so that we can ensure the safety of everyone," said MacDonald, adding that airlines, not the airport, make the decision about which flights get cancelled.

'Delays happen'

Unable to check in, Brian Steinman sat on the floor at Pearson's Terminal 1 surrounded by his luggage. He was supposed to be going home to Calgary after visiting family in Toronto. 

Brian Steinman waits at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. His flight to Calgary was delayed approximately four hours on Monday night due to bad weather. (Larry Guerriero/CBC)

Steinman's flight was delayed at least four hours, which he said meant getting home around 2 a.m. Tuesday morning. But he wasn't complaining.

"I just got to wait it out," he told CBC. "Delays happen, especially in the winter time."

Jim MacDonald, who also had a delayed flight to Calgary, said he learned the hard way to always check his flight status online before heading to the airport.

"I'm not happy," he said. "I'm sitting in an airport for hours on end, bored to tears."

Jim MacDonald waits in Pearson's Terminal 1 for a delayed flight to Calgary. (Larry Guerriero/CBC)

MacDonald said he accepts that delays like this one are just "part of air travel," but that won't make his day tomorrow any easier.

"I'm going to get in at one o'clock [Calgary] time, three o'clock my time," he said. "I was hoping to get in a lot earlier to get to sleep and get to work tomorrow."

Extreme cold alert cancelled

The flight reduction comes even as Environment Canada cancelled extreme cold weather alerts for the city and many surrounding regions. However, warnings remain in effect on Monday evening for areas north and east of the city, including York and Durham regions.

Monday's forecast high is –9 C, and the forecast low is –19 C, but will feel more like –26 C with the wind.

Regular traffic will be able to resume if the winds decrease, MacDonald said.

For now, the airport authority recommends passengers check online about the status of their flights before heading to the airport.