Frustrations mount as travellers see more flight cancellations and delays

Travellers across the country are finding themselves stuck at airports due to cancellations that airlines say are caused by extreme weather conditions.

WestJet has cancelled more than 1,200 flights since Dec. 18

A man standing in front of an arrivals and departures board schedule at the Calgary International Airport.
WestJet has continued to cancel flights across the country due to severe weather. Mass cancellations started on Dec. 18 and are expected to continue. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Jocelyn Mercer was not expecting to spend the holidays between airports and hotels.

On Thursday, she and her family flew from Abbotsford, B.C. to Calgary for a connection — thinking they would be in Manzanillo, Mexico in time for her brother-in-law's wedding.

Instead, they found themselves, like thousands of other travelers, in limbo at a Canadian airport.

"We were supposed to catch a flight [from Calgary] but it was delayed, and then delayed again, and then delayed a third time," Mercer said 

"It just got cancelled…they said it was a crew shortage. The plane was already there."

On Thursday, WestJet said they were cancelling flights out of B.C. and Ontario due to winter storms ahead of the busy holiday weekend. The cancellations affected 126 flights at five airports in B.C. and 140 flights at five airports in Ontario and Quebec.

Between Dec. 18 and Dec. 23, WestJet cancelled more than 1,200 flights across the country due to severe weather. 

In a statement sent on Saturday, WestJet said they are "staffed appropriately" for holiday travel.

A woman standing with her arms crossed in front of the WestJet counter and the Calgary International Airport.
Jocelyn Mercer says she and her family will likely spend Christmas in a hotel instead of attending a family wedding as they had planned. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

"The prolonged and extreme weather events that have impacted multiple regions across Canada are unlike anything we've experienced. With the recent storms in British Columbia, Southern Ontario and Quebec, we took a proactive and measured approach to protect our operations and prioritize recovery flying," said WestJet COO Diederik Pen.

"Our teams on the ground, in the air and behind the scenes are working tirelessly to recover our operations, while trying to limit any further disruption to important holiday travel plans."

Since it was unlikely that they'd be able to make it in time for the wedding, Mercer said they might as well go home and spend Christmas with her side of the family.

But even that seems like it won't happen now.

"We spent a couple of hours on hold with WestJet again last night, and we're like 'okay, we can't get down to Manzanillo, what are our chances of getting home,'" said Mercer. "The earliest flight they have for us, I think, is around 11 p.m. on Christmas we'll have Christmas in a hotel."

A passenger plane is being de-iced at an airport.
A deicing station sprays a WestJet Airlines Boeing 737 jetliner prior to its departure at the international airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Dec. 19, 2022. (Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press)

As of 7:30 a.m. MT on Saturday, 60 flights out of 500 had been cancelled for the day, and one flight was already cancelled on Sunday. The airline said that additional cancellations over the next few days may be required.

WestJet said that any travellers who proactively cancel their flight will receive a full refund to original form of payment, adding that bookings made prior to Dec. 28, can be changed and cancelled without a fee up to two hours before departure for travel between now and Jan. 8, 2023.


Omar Sherif is a digital journalist with CBC Calgary. You can contact him at

With files from Terri Trembath