Early on Saturday afternoon, B.C.’s Lower Mainland was seeing only light snow flurries, but 15 per cent of flights to and from Vancouver International Airport had already been cancelled in anticipation of the coming storm.
YVR said in a statement that its weather models showed 15 to 25 centimetres of heavy, wet snow falling Saturday afternoon and evening, with the heaviest rate of snowfall expected between 7 p.m. and midnight.
“In collaboration with YVR, airlines have adjusted their schedules and cancelled a number of flights in and out of YVR, particularly during the evening hours,” the airport said in its statement, adding that the cancellations equate to 15 per cent of its total flight volume for the day.
Some airlines have also delayed flights until after the heaviest snowfall is expected, YVR said.
“We are monitoring weather closely and working with airlines and our many partners to ensure as many passengers and planes get on their way as quickly and safely as possible,” the statement reads.
Anyone with a flight departing Vancouver on Saturday is “strongly encouraged” to check their airline’s website or the YVR website for flight status information before heading to the airport, YVR said.
Saturday’s pre-emptively cancelled flights may not be the only ones affected by the storm.
“Dependent on the rate of snowfall during the evening hours and even with clear runways and taxiways, there is the potential for a pause on departures or arrivals for a short time due to limited visibility as well as extreme rates of snowfall,” the airport said. “Passengers should know that such a move is not taken lightly and is done with their safety top of mind working with our airline partners and other agencies.”
YVR last made such a move during the storm that wreaked havoc on travel plans just days before Christmas.
Some frustrated passengers described being stuck on planes for as long as 12 hours with little to eat or drink as they waited for gate space to be available to allow them to deplane.
On Friday, the airport alluded to these issues, saying it had asked airlines to “ensure full towing capacity” during the storm “so that empty aircraft are not stuck at gates.”
The impact of December’s storm was compounded by the high volume of traffic passing through the airport during the busy holiday travel season. Weeks after the snow stopped, there were still hundreds of lost and unclaimed bags at the terminal waiting to be reunited with their owners.
The impact of the travel chaos was felt nationwide, with other Canadian airports facing similar problems. In mid-January, the heads of various airports and airlines were called to testify before a parliamentary committee in Ottawa.
By late January, YVR had begun a public engagement process aimed at learning from the December storm. It had also hired consultants to review its response to the travel disruptions.