Late to the party Travel woes keep premier from timely arrival at B.C. summit

OTTAWA — It appears no one is immune to travel chaos gripping Canadian airports, with even Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson grappling with an eight-hour delay that resulted in her missing a networking dinner with her peers.

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OTTAWA — It appears no one is immune to travel chaos gripping Canadian airports, with even Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson grappling with an eight-hour delay that resulted in her missing a networking dinner with her peers.

“There were some challenges for sure; we finally arrived around 1 a.m.,” Stefanson told the Free Press from Victoria, B.C.

The premier was set to fly from Winnipeg on Sunday afternoon through Calgary to Victoria, for a Monday-Tuesday premiers summit focused on health care, affordability and labour gaps.

Her original WestJet flight was to arrive in the B.C. capital just before 5 p.m., in time for a Sunday dinner with her fellow premiers.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Premier Heather Stefanson had an eight-hour travel delay Sunday on her way to the premiers summit in Victoria, B.C.

“I’m very disappointed that I couldn’t make it there; it’s those times where you really get a chance to interact and get to know the other premiers,” said Stefanson.

WestJet reported ground crew staffing issues, meaning her flight to Calgary was expected to take off from Winnipeg more than an hour late, nixing plans for the Victoria connecting flight.

Stefanson rebooked herself on a flight to Vancouver, with hopes of catching a ferry to Victoria if no flight was available.

“We ended up getting the last flight out,” said Stefanson.

The delay meant missing out on a Sunday evening group photo Quebec Premier François Legault posted to Twitter. It shows 11 of the 13 premiers hamming it up in a hotel suite; the only other absence, outgoing Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, was attending the Calgary Stampede.

“Ironically, that’s one of the items I’ll be spearheading tomorrow with our discussion (between premiers) on labour-force immigration and labour supply.”
– Premier Heather Stefanson

“I was sorry to miss that, but I did get caught up with them this morning at breakfast and lunch, so it’s all good,” said Stefanson.

The delay was caused by unfilled jobs, she noted.

“Ironically, that’s one of the items I’ll be spearheading tomorrow with our discussion (between premiers) on labour-force immigration and labour supply,” she said.

“We’re seeing that right across the country, from what I’ve been hearing out there.”

The Winnipeg Airport Authority did not have readily available data on delays, but says the entire sector is affected. Tightly scheduled staff have to be reassigned tasks when flights show up late, at which point they can’t assist new passengers.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Travellers at the Winnipeg James Armstrong International Airport in Winnipeg. The announcement from federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc also suspends the need for proof of vaccination for outbound international travellers and federally regulated workers.

“Any time there is a delay or cancellation anywhere across the country — anywhere in the (global) network really — you’re going to see that trickle-down, ripple effect here at the airport in Winnipeg,” said spokesman Michel Rosset.

He said travellers should check their flight status regularly for delays or changes.

On Monday afternoon, a few Winnipeggers were waiting to pick up delayed passengers. Arrival and departure boards showed a handful of delayed flights, most of which were late by less than an hour.

JP Salvosa waited for his wife’s Air Canada flight from Vancouver for an extra 40 minutes.

“Any time there is a delay or cancellation anywhere across the country– anywhere in the (global) network really — you’re going to see that trickle-down, ripple effect here at the airport in Winnipeg.”
– Michel Rosset, WAA spokesman

“I’m glad I don’t work or have anything else to do today. There are a lot of things I could’ve done with that time,” said Salvosa, who said the plane appeared to arrive on time, but took a while to reach the gate.

“When flights get delayed you start to worry; it’s my wife’s first time flying into Winnipeg,” Salvosa said.

In a statement, WestJet apologized for Stefanson’s delay, saying it was caused by a third party company that cleans planes at the Pearson airport in Toronto.

“In preparation for peak summer travel, we have been meticulously planning for our operations to meet the anticipated demand and to proactively mitigate any challenges,” wrote spokeswoman ​​​​​​​Denise Kenny.

“As the No. 1 carrier in Manitoba, we appreciate the continued support of our services as we work to restore back to 100 per cent capacity,” she wrote, noting that the airline cancelled just 24 of its 1,629 flights this past weekend.

“We understand how frustrating it can be when travel does not go as planned and when a guest does experience a delay, our team makes every effort to accommodate them on the next available flight.”

— with files from Bryce Hunt

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

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