St. Johns

St. John’s International closed for Snowmageddon

Heavy machinery clears snow at St. John’s International Airport after 76 cm of snow fell on the airport (photo: Twitter/St. John’s Airport).

St. John’s International Airport reported Monday the airport would be closed to the travelling public until at least Wednesday after more than 76 cm of snow fell on the Newfoundland capital Friday. That will make five days of closure due to what’s being billed as “Snowmageddon.”

“In consideration of the continued State of Emergency in place by the City of St. John’s, St. John’s International Airport Authority will remain closed to commercial aircraft until Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020 at 0500 hours,” the airport said Monday in a statement.

The airport is open to military and medevac flights, with aprons and parking lots clear, but roads to the airport are impassable. More than 400 members of the Canadian military will arrive in the city to help dig the region out.

The airport said it is in contact with the airlines, who will add capacity to St. John’s when service is allowed to resume. Typically, Air Canada will fly larger aircraft on routes when winter storms restrict traffic.

“We’re monitoring events in St. John’s very closely,” said Air Canada in a Tweet. “We will plan to add capacity to/from the airport once it re-opens and flights are able to resume safely.”

Some passengers vented their frustration with Canada’s largest carrier. “Worst customer service ever,” said Twitter user @AndriyYIvanov. “There is no way to reach by phone or change booking via app.”

Others reported waiting on the phone more than two hours to speak with an agent.

It is unusual for airports to remain closed to commercial flights for such a long time. Large snow events cost airports both in cleanup – the airport said 20 employees have been clearing snow since Friday – and in lost revenue from landing fees.

“It is appreciated that this storm event has had a significant impact on the traveling public, but safety is the number one priority for all agencies involved,” said the airport authority. “The Airport Authority is in contact with all airlines and aircraft operators to provide the most up-to-date information.

“Passengers are advised to not come to the Airport until the State of Emergency is lifted and flight operations are scheduled to resume.”

Westjet has much more limited service to the Atlantic city. The airline promised to rebook affected passengers on the next available flight.