A Vancouver man says he spent hours trying to locate his checked luggage even though his flight never left the airport.
Hundreds of travellers were stranded on Tuesday (Dec. 20) morning at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) after nearly all flights were cancelled in the wake of the worst winter storm of the year.
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 his flight wasn't scheduled to depart until 10:30 p.m., the local man arrived around 6 p.m. to board his flight to Toronto, heeding the advice of both the airport and his airline to arrive early during inclement weather.
He checked in his luggage and proceeded through security without issue but said the plane was having difficulties offloading due to the snowstorm.
"We saw [the plane come in]...but they couldn't get anybody to bridge," he said, adding that the flight crew were eventually able to get the passengers off the plane and the new pilots proceeded onboard.
While they were waiting, however, the passengers were informed that the visibility had worsened "down to zero" and they weren't flying out.
"So then we were told to all head back down and get our luggage," he said. "We didn't have to stay for our luggage...we could file an online claim and it would be delivered to us...but if you're still flying out where are you going to have your luggage delivered if you're still trying to get back to the airport."
While his flight was cancelled around 1 a.m., it took several hours to get his luggage. Photos show the baggage claim area was completely packed.
"It was absolutely jammed up; you could barely move," he describes.
In an image Minielly shared, the luggage from five different flights unloaded into a single carousel, leaving hundreds of travellers scrambling to find their belongings in the stacked suitcases.
"You had to wander through the stacks and find out which one was yours."
All flights cancelled at @yvrairport , luggage is the real nightmare, chaos from flights since 9pm that never made it out. Luggage cart is golden if you can find one. My Mexico connection tomorrow in yyz is just a whimsical idea at this stage. No way home from #yvr #bcstorm pic.twitter.com/rZVutuHwOm— Craig Minielly (@craigminielly) December 20, 2022
Westjet flights were cancelled today at YVR airport
While there were hundreds of people lining up for cabs, Minielly was fortunate that a cab driver was willing to drive him after he helped clean his windshield from stacked snow.
While he says he was luckey to get out, hundreds of other travellers 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.
Sleep wherever you can find it #bcstorm #yvr #flightscancellednowayhome pic.twitter.com/uixBGsRo8E— Craig Minielly (@craigminielly) December 20, 2022
Now, the frustrated traveller is unsure of when or if he'll be able to reschedule his WestJet flight.
While his first flight was a red-eye to Toronto, he was meant to take a second one to Cancun, Mexico the following morning. He booked a three week vacation in Merida, which is close to Cancun.
When he tried calling WestJet, he says the airline's automated message instructed him to re-book via their online system. However, the Vancouver man, as well as hundreds of other frustrated travellers, have been unable to do so.
Ffs @WestJet … #BCStorm pic.twitter.com/pebkREnVC6— Craig Minielly (@craigminielly) December 20, 2022
@kiwicom247 @WestJet cancelled my flight yesterday and i have been stranded in toronto with no further bookings and hotels provided by the airline.Your website doesn’t offer any help for further processing other than refund after months.#westjet— satinder mangat (@mangat_satinder) December 20, 2022
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.
V.I.A. has reached out to YVR for comment.