Winter Weather Causes Flight Diversions In Canada

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**Update: 12/22/20 @ 18:47 – Added comments from Calgary airport regarding diversions **

With severe winter weather hitting parts of Alberta, Canada, several flights on Monday, December 21st, were diverted. This appears to have affected Calgary airport worst, with several afternoon and evening flights diverted to Edmonton airport. There have been some cancelations on Tuesday, but most flights are now operating normally.

WestJet Calgary
Snow in Calgary often affects flights. Photo: Acefitt via Wikimedia

Early winter storm

Winter storms in Canada and Alaska are, of course, not surprising. Alberta province got one of its first storms of the season yesterday, causing relatively sudden and severe travel disruptions. A weather warning was issued during the day on Sunday. This came with predictions of up to 20 centimeters of snow falling in the city of Calgary by Tuesday evening and up to 50 centimeters in other locations (according to reporting in the Calgary Herald).

A travel advisory was issued for road travel, but flights continued. By Monday afternoon they were being affected by intermittent, heavy snowfalls. Only Calgary airport reported significant disruption. Edmonton was less affected and took diverted flights. Over the border, Vancouver operated as normal.

WestJet flights from Calgary were the most affected. Photo: Getty Images

Diverting flights to Edmonton

In a statement on Monday evening, Sara Samson, the airport’s manager of digital communications, said (as reported by CTV News) :

“Due to snow and current wind directions, some flights have diverted to Edmonton. Our crews are working hard to keep the runways, taxiways, and aprons clear under the heavy snowfall.”

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Five flights were diverted en route to Calgary, from just after 15:00 local time until the end of the day. Diverted passenger flights all landed at Edmonton International Airport. According to FlightRadar24.com, these were:

  • Sunwest Aviation (private charter services)  Dash 8.
  • WestJet WS132 from Vancouver, operated by a 737-300 aircraft.
  • WestJet WS3140 from Edmonton, operated by a Dash 8 aircraft. It returned to Calgary later in the evening.
  • WestJet WS669 from Toronto, operated by a Boeing 787-9 aircraft.
  • A FedEx cargo flight from Vancouver, which diverted to Winnipeg International Airport.
Diversion westjet edmonton
The diverted route of WestJet WS669 from Toronto. Image: FlightRadar24.com

There were also 10 arriving flights canceled flights throughout the afternoon. On Tuesday, there have been several cancellations but no further diversions. As is usual, once storms are underway, airlines would be more likely to cancel services in advance than divert them at the last minute.

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Simple Flying contacted Calgary airport regarding the diversions, and a representative explained:

“At the time, due to the wind conditions, we had to use crosswind runway 11 and due to capacity and snow clearing, some of our airline partners made a decision to divert.”

Handling the winter

This likely won’t be the first diversion seen in Canada this winter. Snow is, of course, expected, and airports are well prepared. But diversions do occur where ground equipment has not been prepared in time, snowfall is sudden or heavier than expected, or there are too many flights to handle in the worse conditions.

Sometimes things go even more wrong, though. Simple Flying reported an interesting case almost exactly a year ago. An Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Whitehorse had to detour several times to complete its flight due to changing weather conditions. A two-hour flight ended up taking closer to 36 hours!

Were you affected by these diversions of cancellations, or would you like to share any more experiences of such incidents? Let us know in the comments. 

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