Sunday April 20, 2014

Fog puts air travel in the soup

Flights grounded on Monday at Kamloops Airport, keeping hundreds of travellers in limbo

Conor and Carla Clark wait for their flight out of Kamloops Monday morning. The couple was trying to get to Fort McMurray when dense fog caused delays at Kamloops Airport.

Holiday travel kicked into high gear on Monday, but it also ground to a halt for travellers flying out of Kamloops.

Dense fog delayed flights in and out of Kamloops Airport, creating at least three-hour waits for some passengers and cancellations for others.

“I just found out I’ve been waiting for a flight that’s been cancelled,” said Kristin Dunderdale.

Dunderdale had been in Kamloops visiting family and was supposed to fly to Vancouver at 8:35 a.m. on Monday, and then on to her home in Sandspit in the Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlottle Islands.

But the fog delay not only put her behind schedule leaving Kamloops Airport, it caused her to miss the one daily flight to Sandspit.

“The only day they don’t fly to Sandspit is Tuesday,” said Dunderdale. “So I’ve already missed my Monday flight. There’s no chance of me getting out Tuesday, so now I won’t get home until Wednesday.”

As Dunderdale prepared alternative travel plans, Kamloops Airport manager Fred Legace was assessing the long lineups of travellers waiting to check in.

The trouble, he said, began Sunday night as thick fog rolled into the valley, interrupting the overnight arrivals of WestJet and Central Mountain Air.

“I think the last flight of the day that we managed to sneak in was the Air Canada one at 8:30 and then the overnight WestJet and overnight Air Canada didn’t make it in.”

On Monday morning, the visibility was so poor no planes could land or leave Kamloops.

That put hundreds of travellers in limbo.

Carla Clark and her husband, Conor, were supposed to leave for the first in a series of connecting flights to Fort McMurray at 8:15 a.m. By 11 a.m., they were still waiting for the 1:15 p.m. flight, which was looking more and more like it would be a 2:10 p.m. flight.

Still, the couple remained in good spirits.

“There’s nothing that the staff here can do; they’re doing everything they can do in this situation,” said Conor, a TRU law student.

“So we can just sit and hope and pray that the weather lets up. Beyond that, there’s nothing much we can really do.”

By noon, the sun could be seen peering through the fog.

Legace was hopeful the backlog of travellers would be cleared by day’s end.

“I really hope so,” said Legace.

“I’m not in the business of housing people; I want to fly them.”

It was expected, though, that some passengers would still be dealing with the delays Tuesday and into Wednesday. Thompson Rivers University international student Majad Almutairi was likely going to miss his connecting flight from Vancouver to Frankfurt.

He was flying home to Saudi Arabia.

“I will just have to find another way,” he said while waiting to check in for the delayed flight from Kamloops to Vancouver.

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