On Friday afternoon I was scheduled to fly out of Kelowna on Westjet flight 177 at 1:36 pm. At noon I was at the airport to drop off the rental car and get checked in for my flight. As I checked in the girl at the Westjet counter let me know the plane was running late and I should head through security around 2 pm. No worries, I’d brought plenty to read so I settled in for an hour of reading before heading towards security.
At 2 pm I was sitting in the departures area expecting to hear a boarding announcement when they announced the flight was going to be further delayed since it was coming out of Prince George. It wasn’t until 3:30 that we started boarding the plane, relieved that we were going to be underway that day; however, our hopes of being in Vancouver were dashed when the pilot came on to announce, “this flight’s not going to Vancouver. They’ve closed down the airport and we’re going to have to ask you all to get off, claim your luggage at the carousel, and then talk to the Westjet agents to re-book on another flight.”
We herded off the plane and I made a beeline to the rental car counter, which was going to close in 10 minutes, to secure a car for the night. By this time the girl at the rental counter was getting to know me and I explained that I got to spend another day in Vernon.
Relieved that I had a car, I phoned Westjet and got booked on their last Vancouver flight that evening. The girl at the Westjet call center said they’d already canceled over 200 flights in the last 2 weeks and that everyone in the call center had been working 10 hour shifts the whole time. “It’s great for my bank account” she said, “but I’m really looking forward to some time off!”
I had a few hours to kill so I decided to head back to Vernon and have a quick dinner with my Mom. What I didn’t realize is there was a heavy snow in Vernon and it would take me almost an hour to drive from the airport back to Vernon! Everyone was crawling along at 40-50 km/h and it was tough to see the road through all the snow blowing around. I managed to squeak behind an 18-wheeler and follow his taillights into town. When I got into Vernon I discovered the roads had been blanketed in thick snow and it was tough to drive up any of the uphill roads. I had to back down one hill because the car kept losing traction and spinning out. Eventually I made it to my Mom’s place, thankful the snowy, slippery drive was behind me.
En route I had realized that if the last flight was canceled then I’d be stranded in Kelowna for the night since I would have surrendered my rental car before going through security. Given that they’d canceled a number of flights to Vancouver that afternoon I decided to call Westjet again and book a flight on Sunday. Westjet was cool about that. The girl mentioned they usually charge a fee to switch reservations but since they were trying to move as many people as they could onto that evening’s flight she waived the fee for me.
I kept wondering if I’d made the right decision. If I’d have stayed at Kelowna I might have been back in Vancouver that night. At 9 pm my Mom and I looked up the departures from Kelowna. Turns out that last flight had been canceled as well! Good thing I’d come back to Vernon.
My flight on Sunday was uneventful. Once I got back I realized just how much snow Vancouver had received over the holidays. At the airport I had to shovel a huge pile of heavy, melted snow off my car and then, once I got home, it took me nearly half an hour to find a parking spot that wasn’t blocked by a barricade of snow thrown up by the snowplows that week. All day I’ve been listening to tires spin as people try and get their cars in and out of Vancouver’s West End.