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Flight delays, cancellations frustrate holiday travellers at YYC Calgary International Airport


It's the busiest time of the year at YYC Calgary International Airport as people return or head home for the holidays.

Upward of 50,000 passengers are expected to roll through the airport each day through Jan. 3.

Airport officials expect the busiest days to be Dec. 22, 23 and 27, but many people travelling to Calgary on Monday morning were already dealing with the frustration of flight delays and complications.

“My flight was delayed six hours, and all of my luggage is still in Toronto. It's been very bad," said Louis Xao, who arrived in Calgary around 5 a.m. Monday.

"I'm very tired. I was supposed to get here at around 11:00 p.m., but I've had to cancel my hotel, car rental and everything."

As of 6 p.m., at least 28 flights that were scheduled to arrive in Calgary on Monday morning were outright cancelled, while more than 70 experienced delays.

Weather events including snow and poor visibility in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto are to blame for some of the delays, according to airport officials, but passenger volume, staffing issues, aircraft maintenance and delayed connections from other airports are also playing a role.

In a statement to CTV News, WestJet apologized to its guests who have been impacted by the cancellations and delays, adding that the extreme cold warnings in Alberta and the snow in parts of B.C. are to blame.

“We understand the frustration and disappointment this has caused and our teams are working to re-accommodate guests as quickly as possible,” WestJet said.

“We recognize this has been an incredibly challenging situation for our guests as we navigate limited re-accommodation availability during peak travel time. Safety is our No. 1 priority and we are working alongside our partners to balance the challenges these weather events are presenting.”

Air Canada also cited the winter weather at the country’s major hub airports in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto as the cause for the delays and cancellations.

It said those airports had to impose ground departure restrictions, which reduces the number of flights permitted to take off. It also said the de-icing process that planes must go through during extreme weather like this is also taking longer than expected.

“As many flights to Calgary begin, end or connect through these hubs, any delays at the hubs translate into delays at the other end in Calgary (although we work with the airports and our partners to mitigate these),” the airline said in a statement.

As for missing baggage, Air Canada said there have been issues with airport-owned baggage systems.

“In Calgary, we have hired additional people to help process the delayed bags coming in from other stations and getting them delivered to passengers. Air Canada remains focused on getting passengers and bags to their destinations safely and as quickly as possible,” it said.

Meanwhile, YYC says it is aware of the travel woes some people are facing.

"We are monitoring the situation and continue to work with all our partners – from airlines, airports, security screeners to border agents and government officials – so we can jointly deliver a smooth, efficient experience for travellers," read an email to CTV News from a YYC Calgary International Airport spokesperson.

Still, for travellers trying to get home for the holidays, their experience has been tainted.

"I was fine in Moncton, but there was an hour delay to fly to Toronto and then once I got to Toronto, there was a five-hour delay," said Zoe Holyoake, a university student visiting home for the holidays.

"Now my luggage is left in Toronto."

An air passenger rights advocate recommends travellers hold on to any and all documentation of their trip.

“Ultimately, don’t be a pushover. If passengers are willing to take action this year and hold the airlines accountable for various financial loses they incur, then perhaps next year, those losses will not be happening,” said Gabor Lukacs.

The Calgary Airport Authority is asking travellers to plan ahead and to prepare for potential delays before flying to save time and make their experience more enjoyable.

"We are recommending that you arrive early at the airport," said Chris Miles, vice-president of operations and infrastructure with the Calgary Airport Authority.

"So, if it's a domestic departure that's two hours prior and for an international departure that's three hours prior. We are also the first airport to offer a pre-booking service for security which is an opportunity for guests to go online to our website three days before arrival or departure, select your airline, flight number and a time when you'd like to go through security."

With files from CTV News Calgary’s Mark Villani Top Stories

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