While adverse weather has turned airline travel throughout much of Europe and England into nothing short of chaotic, with hundreds of cancelled flights leaving thousands of passengers stranded in the week leading up to Christmas, the Region of Waterloo International Airport has seen no such delays.
“We’ve actually been pretty fortunate with the snow: it seems to have been falling all around us,” said Chris Wood, the airport’s general manager. “We had one day where it froze up pretty good and we had some rain and a flash-freeze, which caused a little bit of issue for us, but we handled it just fine. We have great crews that know what they’re doing.”
The airport uses a combination of special chemicals and sand to keep the runways clear during the winter. They cannot use salt, however, due to its corrosive properties.
“It wouldn’t be good if airplanes started being subjected to salt,” noted Wood.
The airport rarely sees any delays in the winter – even during their busiest time of year. Typically only six to eight flights arrive or depart on any given day, which gives airport crews greater flexibility and more time to stay on top of any adverse weather that they may experience.
“I guess one of the good things about not having a ton of scheduled traffic is we can really have some time to spend on the runways and keep them clean, where other airports wouldn’t have that luxury because they’re being used so much more,” explained Wood.
The total number of daily passengers and flights in and out of the airport does not increase much during Christmas season compared to the rest of the year, but the nature of those trips tends to change as the amount of business travellers and the number of private planes using the airport tends to quiet down around the holidays, said Wood.
There is a large spike in travel on Wednesdays, though, from December through to March, which coincides with the return of Sunwing Airlines jetting snowbirds and spring-break enthusiasts away from the ice and snow of Waterloo Region to warmer locales. Sunwing returned on Dec. 15 for weekly flights to Punta Cana, Mexico.
The airport typically sees about 300 passengers and about six flights on any given day via Bearskin Airlines and WestJet, but that number typically doubles to about 600 passengers on days when Sunwing is in service, Wood said.
“(Wednesday) is very busy. There will be 189 passengers inbound that went out last week, and then 189 going out. And WestJet is full coming in and almost full going out. And Bearskin is also having a great month, so all of our flights seem to be almost full.”
Approximately 100,000 passengers make use of the airport annually. Wood expects they will be announcing more flights in 2011.