Canada's major airlines have waived penalties for flight changes and cancellations as wildfires continue to rage across the B.C. interior.
The B.C. government declared a provincial state of emergency on Aug.18 as several new evacuation orders were issued across the province.
You should not travel to the affected areas, which include those affected by the devastating fire in Kelowna and West Kelowna. A travel ban prohibiting non-essential travel to the region remains in place.
The Kelowna International Airport (KLW) will be closed for the fifth consecutive day in a row on Tuesday, Aug.23 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. due to ongoing wildfire activity near its airspace.
Transport Canada has given an exemption to allow some flights to operate on a case-by-case basis overnight when aerial firefighting activities are not taking place. However, flights may be impacted by weather conditions at the airport, including smoke.
If you must visit the airport, check with your airline for updated information about flight status before you leave.
What to do if you have Vancouver flights booked to the B.C. interior
Most of the flights from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) to KLW have been cancelled, including arrivals and departures with WestJet, Air Canada, and Air North. An Air Canada departure was slated to fly into YVR at 8:42 p.m. on Tuesday, but it has been delayed until 10:42 p.m.
There are a couple of additional Tuesday departures scheduled to fly into Kelowna from Vancouver, including an Air Canada flight that was scheduled to depart at 6:10 p.m. and has been bumped back to 8:15 p.m. and an Air North flight at 8:25 p.m., a WestJet flight at 9:50 p.m., an Air Canada flight at 10:05 p.m.
Air Canada flights
Air Canada says its customers can make alternative travel arrangements for free due to the Kelowna-area fires if they booked flights that are scheduled to depart until Sept. 4 and they purchased their ticket before Aug. 20.
Applicable tickets must include a flight to or from Kelowna, Kamloops, or Penticton.
To make changes to your ticket, go "Air Canada Manage My Booking Information" online to another date until Sept. 30, subject to availability in the fare class you originally purchased. If you book into a different one, a fare difference will apply.
If you choose to cancel your flight, you will receive a full refund.
Contact Air Canada directly for further assistance online or by phone at 1-888-247-2262 (or 1-800-361-5373 if your ticket is an Aeroplan flight reward).
WestJet says customers who have flights booked to Kelowna may use its flexible change/cancel guidelines for flights booked on or before Aug.18 for travel between Aug. 18 and Sept. 4.
Customers who had flights booked to Penticton and Kamloops may use its flexible change/cancel guidelines for flights booked on or before Aug.20 for travel between Aug. 20 and Sept. 4.
WestJet will waive the applicable change or cancellation fee, and you have the option to:
- Change your travel dates to and/or from the same destination. If there’s a difference in fares, you won’t be charged but blackout dates may apply.
- Change your destination with or without changing your travel dates. If you’re going to a close airport like Abbotsford International Airport (YXX) instead of YVR, you won’t be charged for any fare difference.
- If you choose to go to an airport that isn’t geographically close, you’ll pay the fare difference.
- If the new fare is less, the refund guidelines for fare types apply.
- Cancel your trip. You’ll get a refund according to the guidelines for the original fare bundle.
For assistance with changes or cancellations, contact WestJet directly.
Flair Airlines flights
Flair Airlines says all travellers who have been affected by cancellations spurred by the wildfires will receive flight status notifications directly and options to rebook flights.
Customers travelling to/from Kelowna between Aug. 18 and Aug. 25 can change bookings for free but fare difference or cancellation fees may apply.
On Tuesday night, Air North will resume service to Kelowna from Vancouver but will continue to waive its change and cancellation fees for flights on the route.
Passengers booked to travel between Vancouver and Kelowna should check "their email closely for messages related to any changes to their flights," the airline advised in an update.
Contact the Air North customer service team at 1-800-661-0407 for assistance but keep in mind that call volumes have been high due to the fires.