Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manitoba students left to cool heels

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FRUSTRATED passengers milled about the Richardson International Airport on Friday, anxious for word about flights cancelled in the wake of Air Canada labour unrest in Toronto and Montreal.

As of midday Friday, four Air Canada flights had been cancelled: two inbound and two outbound from Winnipeg.

Among the passengers who were supposed to be on those planes was a group of students from Steinbach Regional Secondary School, who arrived at the airport planning to embark on a trip to Europe. Instead, the group wound up camping out for most of the day in the airport's departure area, waiting for word on how they might get to Toronto to make their connecting flight.

"The people at the counter basically told us to send the kids home, that there would not be a flight today, and for three days they would not be able to get us out of here," said Katie Cook, a librarian and teacher with the Steinbach Regional Secondary School, who got her boarding passes before she was turned back. "How do you tell 19 kids that we're done?... It was awful."

While the group was originally told there was hope to make another flight, late in the afternoon Air Canada arranged to get them hotel rooms near the airport instead.

There was a chance the group could make it out on a plane this morning, but the carrier warned volumes of travellers could mean not all hopeful travellers will make it out today.

"As long as we can get to Toronto, we think we should be OK," Cook said.

Students from Carberry Collegiate also lounged nearby, stretched out on the ground colouring in Sesame Street characters.

The group of 21 students was on its way to Greece, said teacher Kathy Bjarnason, but had to make a connection through Toronto.

Bjarnason had a laid-back approach about the delay.

"It happens, when you travel, whether you're travelling with a large group or not. It's a little unfortunate; the kids are excited to go," said Bjarnason.

Audrey Harder, whose 17-year-old son Ryan was headed to Europe with SRSS, was at the airport Friday to see what happened.

"Of course, they're going to nail spring break, because that's when everybody travels, especially students," said Harder, who called the experience a "waiting game."

 

-- with files from Melissa Martin

gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 24, 2012 A4

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