Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
TORONTO — Air Canada and several other airlines have updated their travel alerts for upwards of 20 gateways in Canada and the U.S., as a massive winter storm sweeps through Ontario, Quebec and onwards to the east, disrupting flights and causing travel snarls.
The weather may be frightful but the wind and snow are also keeping the phones ringing off the hook at travel agencies and tour operators, making for one of the best winter seasons in the travel industry in years.
Air Canada already had more than a dozen cities with travel alerts posted yesterday and has since added to that list. Passengers on impacted flights won’t incur flight change fees if they need to alter their travel plans.
Air Canada has issued travel alerts for some 20 gateways impacted by the storm, including: Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Victoria, Vancouver, Toronto (YTZ and YYZ), Sydney, Sept-Iles, Saint John, NB, Quebec City, Ottawa, New York (EWR and LGA), Montreal, Moncton, Hartford, Gaspe, Fredericton, Charlottetown, Boston and Bathurst, NB.
The Air Canada alerts apply for flights both today and tomorrow (Feb. 12 and Feb. 13).
WestJet is also allowing flight changes without fees, for the following cities and regions, all due to winter storm systems: Comox, Abbotsford, Nanaimo, Vancouver and Victoria (through Feb. 12); New York region (Feb. 12); Southern Ontario (Feb. 12); Fredericton, Halifax, Moncton, Sydney and Charlottetown (Feb. 13); Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal (Feb. 12 – 13) and Gander and St. John’s (Feb. 14).
Porter Airlines also has several cities on its Travel Alerts page for Feb. 12, including Boston, Montreal, New York (EWR), Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury and Toronto.
Currently on Toronto Pearson Airport’s departures web page there are more red ‘Cancelled’ notifications than green ‘Departed’ notifications for flights within Ontario and to gateways in Quebec and the Maritimes, however most sun destination flights and flights heading west to cities like Vancouver are mostly departing just fine.
This latest winter storm in what’s already been a proper snowy and cold winter across much of Canada, is a ‘Colorado low’ moving northeast from the U.S. The storm has been pelting Ontario with snow, ice and high winds on Tuesday, with Canada’s weather agency warning residents to brace for worsening weather before the system moved east into Quebec.
Environment Canada issued widespread winter storm warnings across Ontario, with everything from freezing rain in the southwestern part of the province to as much as 40 centimetres of snow near the Ottawa region expected today.
Schools and post-secondary institutions across the province called off classes. The closures in Ontario may be a sign of things to come for the rest of the country, said Environment Canada meteorologist Gerald Cheng, adding the system promises to make itself felt in Quebec and all points east in the coming days.
“It’s not just affecting parts of Ontario, it’s also affecting Quebec and eventually all the Atlantic provinces,” he said. “Basically, a lot of people in eastern Canada will be affected by this storm.”
Cheng said moisture the storm system will have gathered on its way north will result in freezing rain falling on a large stretch of southwestern Ontario from Windsor to London. As it moves north, however, Cheng said the precipitation will shift to a combination of snow and ice pellets.
That mix is expected to fall on the Greater Toronto Area and surrounding regions, he said, bringing between 15 and 25 centimetres of combined precipitation.
Snowfall totals are expected to rise as the storm travels east, he said, adding the Ottawa area can brace for as much as 40 centimetres.
The storm is expected to hit Quebec overnight and into Wednesday morning, he added.
“This is a big storm, and not only are we talking about the precipitation … winds can gust up to 80 kilometres per hour,” he said.
With files from The Canadian Press