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75 Westjet flights cancelled in Calgary alone on Saturday

The polar vortex continues to impact WestJet’s operations across the west, the airline says.

On Saturday, WestJet said extremely low temperatures on the prairies “rendered de-icing fluid ineffective” in Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Kelowna, Kamloops, Fort McMurray, Prince George, Grande Prairie, Yellowknife and Fort St. John.

The airline is also limiting the amount of time its crews spend working outside in addition to complications caused by having extreme temperatures rendering essential equipment such as bridges and fuel stations “inoperable.”

Arslan Zahid saw his flight from Regina Friday afternoon cancelled and had to book his own hotel for the night. On Saturday he spent a few hours in line trying find a new flight.

“They just said they are not rebooking, so I don’t have any ticket. My ticket got cancelled. I don’t know if I’m stuck here for a few days or until when,” he said.

Aviation expert John Gradek acknowledged weather is a factor, but says the airline industry knew it was coming.

“I’m not sure how prepared the industry was for this cold weather,” said the head of the McGill Aviation Management.

A total of 122 WestJet flights were cancelled Saturday morning, 75 of which were in Calgary. Just over 100 were cancelled on Friday.

Gradek pointed to an overly tight schedule.

“With the cold weather showing up, you need more ground time on your airplane [to] be able to handle it. So either you build it into your schedule, or you suffer the consequences of it.”

Flexible change and cancel guidelines are in effect for people traveling to or from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba between Jan. 11 and Jan. 15.

“We sincerely thank our guests for their ongoing patience as our teams and partners on the ground, in the air and behind the scenes work tirelessly, battling frigid temperatures, to ensure a safe operation,” said David Powell, WestJet Vice-President, Airports, in a news release. “Your travel plans are extremely important to us, and we are committed to providing timely and proactive communication as we work to restore our operations as the weather forecast evolves.”

An overnight winter storm caused nine flight diversions to and from Toronto as well.

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