This story was updated on Friday, December 23 at 10:05 a.m.
The holiday travel season is off to a bumpy start as Toronto and Vancouver airports have warned of operational impacts due to blustery winter storms.
Rain and/or snow is expected to hit Toronto on Thursday (Dec. 22), Environment Canada warns – a weather event that will further lead to sub-zero temperatures and blizzard-like conditions on Friday (Dec. 23).
Toronto Pearson airport posted a winter weather advisory on Wednesday, stating that flights could be impacted.
The airport is urging air passengers to check the status of their flight, with their airline, before heading to the airport.
“Delays and cancellations in other parts of Canada can have an impact at Pearson,” noted YYZ on Twitter.
Which brings us to Vancouver International Airport (YVR), which, on Tuesday (Dec. 20), endured an intense snowstorm that resulted in mass cancellations.
YVR halted all international arrivals for about 48 hours to deal with congestion caused by 27 centimetres of snow that day, according to a statement from the airport.
In an update posted Thursday (Dec. 22) on its Twitter account, YVR wrote that flights were steadily arriving and departing from the airport.
“As we work with our airline partners and airport community to get passengers on their way, travellers are encouraged to check latest flight information with their airline,” the airport wrote.
“We continue to keep runways, taxiways and aprons clear of snow and ice, and de-ice aircraft. We continue to assist passengers in the terminal, providing food, water, blankets, and any other needed assistance.”
YVR added that it is assisting airline partners by “deploying additional staff to help organize bags and work with passengers to locate their luggage.”
Flights at Calgary International Airport (YYC), too, are experiencing weather-related delays due to the B.C. snowstorm, as well as “extreme cold,” YYC airport wrote on Twitter yesterday.
Airlines post alerts
Air Canada noted on Dec. 20 that if travellers currently have a reservation, there's a flexible change policy that makes it possible to voluntary change an itinerary if:
- The customers purchased an Air Canada ticket no later than Dec. 19, 2022 for travel between December 20, 2022 and December 25, 2022.
- The itinerary includes a flight to, from or via Vancouver (YVR).
"If you are scheduled to travel during the affected period, you can retrieve your booking to change your flight up to two hours before departure, free of charge, to another date between now and December 31, 2022, subject to availability in the cabin you originally purchased on your Air Canada flight. Otherwise, any fare difference will apply," Air Canada wrote.
Those who purchases a ticket with Aeroplan or Air Canada Vacations are advised to contact them directly.
WestJet cancels B.C. & Ontario flights (NEW)
WestJet announced Thursday that it is cancelling all flights out of B.C. and Ontario due to the winter storms.
In a statement, the airline said the cancellations, brought on by "prolonged and extreme weather events," will affect 126 flights at five airports in B.C. and 140 flights at five airports in Ontario and Quebec.
"We sincerely apologize for the continued disruption many have or will experience and appreciate your continued patience and understanding," stated Diederik Pen, WestJet's chief operations officer.
"Our teams on the ground, in the air and behind the scenes are working tirelessly to recover our operations, while trying to limit further disruption to important holiday travel plans."
WestJet cancelled all flights arriving and departing from Vancouver International Airport starting at 11:50 p.m. PT on Thursday until Friday late afternoon, depending on weather conditions.
Flights have also also been scrapped at Abbotsford International Airport, Victoria International Airport, Nanaimo Airport and Comox Airport.
In Ontario, WestJet says it cancelled all flights arriving and departing from Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Friday, starting at 9 a.m. until the end of the day. A "restart" will depends on weather conditions by Saturday, the airline said.
A major winter storm is forecast to hit much of Ontario on Friday and Saturday.
WestJet said its decision was made after it consulted airport authorities and NAV Canada.
"The prolonged and extreme weather events that continue to impact multiple regions across Canada are unlike anything we've experienced," Pen said. "The decision to stand down more flights is extremely difficult, but it is necessary, so that we can be best prepared to safely fly as many guests, with as little disruption as possible when the weather improves."
The airline says that "enhanced flexible change/cancel guidelines" are in effect due to the winter storm warning in B.C.
Guests should also check status of their flights before leaving for the airport.
The airline stated Wednesday that there is “very limited” reaccommodation availability due to the high demand for travel this time of year and the significant impact across the industry.
WestJet customers with confirmed travel between now and Dec. 26 that would like to cancel a flight only reservation can do so through this refund form.
“Any guest who proactively cancels their flight will receive a full refund to original form of payment,” WestJet noted.
WestJet’s enhanced flexible change and cancel policies remain in place between now and Jan. 8, 2023, provided changes are actioned before Dec. 26, the airline says.
WestJet also posted the following:
For guests with cancelled flights prior to arriving at the airport:
- Reaccommodation options are limited, where available options will be communicated through email.
- Reaccommodation options offered are what is available, there are no alternative options by contacting our contact centre; contact centre wait times are extremely high. Please do not go to the airport to seek reaccommodation options, our airport teams are not able to support further.
For guests with flights cancelled while at airport:
- Any available reaccommodation options will be communicated through email as soon as they are available.
- If you are currently at the airport in Calgary or Vancouver dedicated lines have been set-up to assist guests in transit, the reaccommodation options will be same as those provided by email.
As well, guests are being advised to only phone the contact centre to make changes to a confirmed reservation – if the flight has been cancelled and you are looking for a new flight option the contact centre is not able to assist you.
The airline is asking guests to refrain from contacting the WestJet call centre “unless travel is imminent” (within the next 72 hours).
The contact centre is only able to facilitate changes to a confirmed reservation, due to limited availability of flights, the company said.
WestJet has published a Q&A, which you can read here.
Sunwing announces cancellations (NEW)
Sunwing flights also continue to be impacted by weather.
For customers in Vancouver, all southbound Sunwing flights are cancelled due to severe winter weather, Sunwing wrote on Dec. 22. This applies to southbound flights up to and including Dec. 25, 2022.
"We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience during the busy holiday period," the tour operator wrote.
Additionally, as a result of Vancouver’s weather conditions, which stranded several planes and crew, Sunwing has also cancelled select southbound flights with departures up to and including Dec 25, 2022 from Kelowna, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina and Winnipeg airports, the airline wrote on Thursday.
Customers with cancelled flights will receive a full refund to their original form of payment and no action is required from customers, the cpmpany said, noting that refunds will be processed within 30 days.
For those customers that want to change their travel to a different date, they can do so before Dec. 27, 2022 by contacting their travel agent or the Sunwing Sales Centre at 1-877-786-9464. (Current system rates will apply).
If no changes are reflected on customers' bookings by Dec. 27, 2022, the booking will be automatically cancelled and a refund issued, with no action required from customers, Sunwing said.
For the latest travel alerts from Sunwing, click here.
Air Transat also noted that the winter storms affecting YVR airport may impact flights to and from Vancouver until Dec. 25, 2022.
The carrier recommends passengers visit this page to check their flight status.