Hundreds of people have been stranded in airports trying to get home for the holidays as British Columbia is pummelled with inches of snow and ice, including one Victoria mother.
Heidi-Louise Chadwick is just one of many who are feeling the impact of the severe weather, poor flight responses and other transit cancellations.
On a travel stint from Orlando, FL to Calgary Dec. 21, the mother and her two-year-old son were late getting to their connecting flight to Victoria because of a delayed landing and a moved gate. The flight was, however, delayed multiple times – leaving Chadwick and her son waiting for hours on the hard airport floor.
After arriving at the airport around 9:45 p.m., Chadwick, who was flying with WestJet, learned that her flight was cancelled around 2:30 a.m. She and others on the flight were asked to leave immediately and without their suitcases.
“The staff said they couldn’t help anyone and we’d get an email,” Chadwick said. “They said we would get a $150-per-night hotel reimbursement for up to three nights. We weren’t allowed a voucher and due to sheer volume of cancellations they couldn’t comment on hotel availability or assist any of us. They said they couldn’t comment on rescheduling info and flight availability. They then reiterated we all needed to leave immediately. They said we couldn’t have our suitcases and said they’d be on the next flight we’re on.”
As Chadwick quickly tried to book a hotel, she soon found that anything close was full and stranded with an infant and only a carry on, she was left bewildered at the treatment she and others had received.
“I’m a well-versed traveller and have travelled with my son solo many times and have never felt so abandoned by an airline,” she said. “I understand there is only so much that the check-in staff can do but as I solo-travelled with a child, it was turning into a very dangerous and scary situation.”
With the help of some other good-willed passengers, she was able to find a taxi to a hotel that could take her, getting there at 4:30 a.m. Dec. 22.
Later, she received an email from WestJet alerting her that the company was unable to find her another flight, further extending her trip. It was then that Chadwick’s husband insisted he drive the 12-14-hour trek over land and water to come get his wife and son.
“At this point, I just needed my luggage as I didn’t even have a coat, let alone anything appropriate for -40C weather for my son,” she said. “We had no one to watch our cats and we didn’t know how long it would take for him to get to us and us to get back so he had to bring them with him. Luckily, the hotel I stayed at allowed pets and we could check them in once he arrived.”
Chadwick knows she is not alone in this mess. Flight cancellations and other transportation delays have caused massive problems across the country.
As of now, Chadwick, her family and her pets are still trying to make it home.
“I’ve tried to contact WestJet to see if I can locate my luggage and see if there was any other option but their phone lines were full and they weren’t accepting any more calls,” she said. “It’s been really tough. I spoke to a few people at the hotel I was at, the staff there and also my taxi driver, and the effects of these cancellations have been felt throughout the whole of Canada.”