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'Sleep wherever you can find it': Hundreds of travellers stranded at YVR airport following winter storm

A woman said that she was stranded for over 10 hours on the airport tarmac, with the crew rationing snacks and water. People were "starting to panic."
Westjet flights were cancelled today as a result of the winter storm in Vancouver, BC in December 2022. Air Canada has also released a statement.

Nearly all flights out of Vancouver International Airport (YVR) were cancelled Tuesday (Dec. 20) morning in the wake of the worst winter storm of the year -- and more cancellations and delays are expected this week. 

While its snowfall warning has ended, Environment Canada has issued an Arctic outflow warning for the region as strong winds will make already frigid temperatures feel piercingly cold.

But another snow event is also expected to follow the bone-chilling cold system sometime later this week -- and it will cause more problems at local airports. 

The Vancouver airport's team has issued several YVR updates throughout the day, with many of them thanking the travelling public for their continued patience as the crew clears the ice and snow.

Around 3 p.m., the airport tweeted that a "small number of flights" were able to depart but that the "majority of scheduled flights" are cancelled. Air passengers should not come to YVR unless they "absolutely need to."

The Vancouver airport also characterized the cancellations as "unprecedented."

Air Canada has also released a Vancouver-specific statement, noting that the impactful storm is affecting its operations at YVR. Customers are advised to check their flight status prior to leaving for the airport and rebook online if their flight is cancelled.

Abbotsford International Airport (YXX) also released a statement Tuesday morning, noting that there are flight delays and cancellations due to the snow.

Travellers flying in or out of YXX should check with their airline for the status of their flight. In all tweets, the airport has advised travellers to defer to airlines for information about cancellations.

"Our crews and partners are working extremely hard to clear the snow," the YXX airport wrote in a tweet. 

Numerous passengers resorted to sleeping at the airport or resting there while awaiting transportation. One traveller tweeted there were no taxis, Ubers, or even the Canada Line service to get people out of the airport and many of them were stranded over "24 hours hoping to either fly or get to a hotel."

"Hundreds of us left with no booked flight anymore...just exhausting

Westjet flights were cancelled today at YVR airport

Vancouver photographer Craig Minielly told Vancouver Is Awesome in a phone interview that he was almost stranded at the airport after his red-eye flight with WestJet was cancelled Monday night. While it was cancelled around 1 a.m., it took several hours to get his luggage because it had already been checked in. 

By the time he had located his luggage, the Canada Line was no longer running and he couldn't get a cab as there were huge lineups. He headed to the Fairmont Hotel area in the airport to see if he might be able to check his luggage while he waited. When he did, he met a woman who had been stuck for a couple of days.

"[She had been] stuck for a couple of days trying to get home and she had a hotel downtown but couldn't get to it," he explained. "I saw a cab outside in the street...the guy was pulled over and cleaning his windshield.

"So I went out and I helped him clean his windshield and I convinced him to pick us up and take us downtown."

While Minielly says he was fortunate to get out, hundreds of others were not. He shared an image of an air passenger resorting to sleeping in a phone booth because there were so few places left to rest. Another individual slept on the back of a cart. 

Many passengers reported lengthy waits on the tarmac, too. One woman said that the crew on a WestJet flight was rationing snacks as the passengers waited upwards of 10 hours. 

Find out everything Vancouver travellers need to know about cancellations during inclement weather and over the holidays.