Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's airport opens, relieves stranded passengers

The City of St. John’s has agreed to allow the St. John’s International Airport to resume operations as of 5:00 a.m. Wednesday morning.

'I don't think I'd want to be stuck anywhere else'

Flights are now arriving at and departing from St. John's International Airport after five days of down time. (Adam Walsh/CBC)

After five days without commercial flights flying in or out of the St. John's airport, travellers are happy to finally be able to take off and touch down.

The City of St. John's has agreed to allow the St. John's International Airport to resume operations as of 5:00 a.m. Wednesday morning.

The announcement is somewhat bittersweet for Beverly Steele whose sister who lives in St. John's missed a surgery that could only be done in Halifax. The 12 hour surgery would be critical in removing some of the cancer in her abdomen.

"The sooner she gets the surgery the better," said Steele, who is concerned about the cancer getting worse as she waits.

It's good to be back at work and seeing people's smiling faces.- Patrick Hanlon

Steele said the surgery was booked for Wednesday but the hospital needed her sister there by Tuesday, which didn't happen due to so many cancellations. 

"There is nobody to blame, it is just the luck has not been in our corner as of right now," she said

Passenger Krista Mulrooney was one of the first to touch down Wednesday. She had been trying to make her way home for a funeral. (Adam Walsh/CBC)

Steele said it has calmed her family's nerves to secure another appointment for surgery and to see those flights back up and running.

"I am relieved, yes, because it's not just my sister in this situation, there are a lot of people that have to leave for many other reasons," Steele said.

"We just really need the airport, don't we."

Krista Mulrooney, who lives in Edmonton, was among the first passengers to land Wednesday morning.

Her father passed away Sunday.

"We're home for his funeral," she said. "I've been trying to get home for my mom and my family."

The runways are finally open for commercial flights, and people are coming home to St. John's after extended stays away due to the post-blizzard state of emergency. 1:03

Heading home

Some of those crowding around the departures board Wednesday had been trying to leave the island for days.

Dean Blotto Gray, a photographer for snowboarding company Burton on his way to Japan, wasn't frustrated about being stranded.

His crew had "never seen anything like this," he said. "Being in a hurricane made out of snow --it was quite thrilling. And it made our trip actually better because we stayed a little bit longer hung out with the community more and did some more snowboarding."

Sherry Stinson nearly made it out ahead of the storm Friday, but ended up stuck at a hotel. She said staff and guests all came together in — even grabbing shovels to help hotel workers clear out cars.

"The people that I've met [are] really going to be the shining part of the entire situation," she said.

Karen Gray says she had a great time being stranded in St. John's. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Stinson's friend Karen Gray said, despite the exhaustion and intermittent feelings of isolation, she found the entire experience fantastic.

"We all kind of bonded together, hung out, played cards, drank some beer," Gray said.

"I don't think I'd want to be stuck anywhere else."

Additional flights 

Peter Avery, CEO of the St. John's Airport Authority, told CBC Radio that the airport is prepared to open Wednesday morning and get back to business as usual.

"We're in pretty good shape right now. All of our main facilities, and our airfields, parking lots and roadways are cleared. So, we're ready for the go-ahead tomorrow morning," Avery said.

Avery said St. John's International Airport is expecting at least 2,000 passengers inbound on Wednesday, with the same amount looking to fly out. 

Air Canada said in a tweet that the company plans on adding capacity to and from the St. John's Airport once it re-opens to get passengers to where they need to be as quickly as possible. 

Taxis back on the road 

Taxis were allowed to resume full operation Tuesday evening to not only get people to and from the airport but to also get people to grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and doctors offices.

"It's good to be back at work and seeing people's smiling faces and being part of the community," said Patrick Hanlon, owner and operator of Independent Taxi NL.

Hanlon who was out helping people get their groceries Tuesday said the road conditions were "rather rough" but is hoping the conditions will improve for Wednesday. 

St. John's International Airport has sat empty for the past five days as flights to and from the airport have been cancelled. The airport resumed operation Wednesday morning. (Chris Murphy/The Weather Network)

"All day [Tuesday] everybody was very courteous, pedestrians were also understanding of the vehicles … and vehicles were yielding to pedestrians," he said.

While the city has kept taxis off the roads to help with snowclearing, Hanlon said that means time he didn't get paid. 

"[It's] difficult, I am out of work just like many people."

"Over the last number of days I have received a good number of calls looking for service and I have been unable to service my customers … so it provides me a little more relief now."

The city is asking residents to try to carpool or take a taxi to reduce traffic on the roads if possible.

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