Holiday travel snarls expected as winter storms hit Britain, Canada

Several Hong Kong flights to and from Canada already delayed, while further disruption expected as major storm moves towards Britain

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 December, 2013, 4:32pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 December, 2013, 6:03pm

Two major Hong Kong holiday destinations are bracing for extensive travel disruption as storms wreak havoc during the peak Christmas holidays, affecting thousands of people.

Two Hong Kong-bound flights that departed from Toronto on Sunday are five and a half hours behind schedule, according to Flight Stats, due to adverse weather conditions. Air Canada flight AC 15 is due to arrive at 7pm on Monday and Cathay Pacific flight CX 825 will arrive at 11.30pm.

Passenger Ongio Tsui took to Twitter to vent his frustration at his delayed arrival in Hong Kong. “Yay, more delays,” he said, adding, “Bloody hell can we just push back already.”

Robin Hutchinson, who flew home to Toronto from Hong Kong, found a city plunged in blackouts and thick ice.

“[Fifteen-hour] flight from Hong Kong, [I] come home to no power and ice storm in #TO [Toronto]. Welcome home to me I suppose! Ice-covered trees are kind of pretty though,” she said.

A major snow and ice storm moving across central and eastern Canada has already left almost half a million homes without power, including Toronto and Montreal, after power lines buckled under the strain.

“This is truly one of the worst ice storms we’ve seen here in Ontario,” Anthony Haines, head of electricity supplier Toronto Hydro, was quoted by reports as saying.

Yesterday, Cathay Pacific flight CX 828 and CX 826 from Hong Kong arrived in Toronto five and four hours late, respectively.

The knock-on weather effect could be greater as passengers connecting to and from Cathay flights with code-share partner WestJet Airlines to Canadian destinations Halifax, Ottowa, Winnepeg and Montreal are all in the affected areas.

[Fifteen-hour] flight from Hong Kong, [I] come home to no power and ice storm. Welcome home to me, I suppose
Robin Hutchison, traveller

Calgary and Edmonton, to the west of Toronto, as well as Halifax in the east, may be hit with further delays as airports reduce airport capacity as planes navigate tricky take-offs and landings.

Britain, meanwhile, is preparing for a major storm bringing gusts of up to 144km/h in the worst-affected areas including the northwest of England and up to 1.5 inches of rain, according to the BBC, raising fears of flooding, landslides and felled trees.

The bad weather is expected to arrive during the Monday morning rush hour and to last throughout Christmas Eve.

No delays are currency forecast in Vancouver, but Britain’s London Heathrow Airport has advised passengers to check with their airline before travelling to the airports on Monday, the BBC reports.

Air Canada and WestJet said they were waiving fees to allow passengers to change flights – space permitting – as the storms impact operations.

More than 300 flights were cancelled at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, according to the airport’s website, with dozens more scrapped in Ottawa and Montreal.

The storm left up to 1.2 inches of ice, and Environment Canada said winds in the Toronto area might pick up to as much as 40km/h. The forecast for the Montreal area calls for as much as 12 inches of snow and ice pellets.

Additional reporting from Bloomberg