Service being restored across WestJet network after train derailment disrupts fibre lines

Services are being restored to normal, according to Nav Canada, after more than 100 flights were delayed across the WestJet network on Thursday following a train derailment that disrupted fibre lines.

More than 100 flights delayed across network due to navigation system outage

WestJet planes parked at the Calgary Airport in March 2020. Nav Canada, the navigation system operator at the airport, experienced a system outage Thursday, and WestJet's check-in system had some intermittent issues. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Service is now returning to normal at the Calgary International Airport after a train derailment caused a disruption of fibre lines on Wednesday.

A spokesperson with Nav Canada, which operates the nation's air navigation system, said the disruption was connected to one of its telecommunications service providers, Zayo. As of 12:45 p.m., Nav Canada said its services were returning.

Earlier on Thursday, Zayo said it was working on a "swift restoration of service" following the disruption of two key fibre lines managed by one of its underlying fibre providers in Canada.

"[That includes] an outage caused by a train derailment yesterday evening," reads a statement provided by Zayo. 

"We have rerouted a significant volume of traffic via other routes so that our customers can begin resuming normal operations. We regret the inconvenience this has caused for our customers and air passengers, and our top priority is the safety of everyone involved." 

The train derailment in question took place in Bassano, Alta., approximately 140 kilometres southeast of Calgary, on Wednesday afternoon.

Jenny Clampett, who lives in the U.K., was trying to get from Calgary to Toronto on Thursday. She said she understands travelling has been difficult as of late but would have appreciated more effective communication from airline companies about the problems. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

WestJet said it had been affected by the outage. Across WestJet's network, there have been three cancellations and more than 100 flights delayed as a result of the outage. 

The airline also continues to experience a problem with its check-in service. Earlier nationwide issues involving infrastructure and online payment services have been resolved.

Self-serve baggage drop system is not functioning properly in Calgary as well as Ottawa, Saskatoon and Halifax.

"Guests are encouraged to arrive early and check flight status before heading to the airport," reads a statement posted by the airline.

Elle Dunlap from California — who was travelling with her husband and five-year-old son Thursday to Saskatoon, Sask., for her brother-in-law's memorial service — arrived at the San Francisco International Airport at 6 a.m. Thursday.

Their flight, with a scheduled connection in Calgary, was supposed to depart at 8:30 a.m. but as of 9:15 a.m., the family was still waiting.

"I was anxious about this flight anyway because I've heard about some of the troubles with domestic flights within Canada," Dunlap said in an interview, adding she first suspected there was a problem when the family was unable to check-in online.

"We came to the airport super early, but there was just no communication [from WestJet]. It was just 'the system's not working' and we were just waiting in line with 100 other people for hours."

A spokesperson with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority said the outage appeared to be affecting only Western Canada, adding operations at Toronto's Pearson airport are normal.

The outages Thursday are exacerbating what has already been a frustrating summer for Canadian air travellers.

Airlines and airports have been struggling to cope with a massive travel resurgence in the wake of the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Staffing issues at carriers and federal agencies have resulted in flight cancellations, baggage delays and endless queues.

With files from Diane Yanko and Amanda Stephenson of The Canadian Press