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Kelowna woman stranded in Calgary for days as wildfires force flight cancellations

It took a Kelowna woman two days to get back home due to flight cancellations
Many flights into and out of Kelowna have been cancelled due to thick smoke from ongoing wildfires in the area. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)

A Kelowna woman trying to come home to her family says she is grateful to finally fly back after days of flight cancellations.

Shyloe Fayad was stuck in Calgary for two days trying to get back home to Kelowna after visiting spending some time with her children in Montreal.

She left Kelowna on Aug. 4 and was scheduled to come back home on Aug. 16. With direct flights now offered between Montreal and Kelowna, Fayad didn’t think much of it.

But on the day she was supposed to fly back, her direct flight back to the Kelowna International Airport (YLW) was cancelled due to the thick wildfire smoke.

So Air Canada put her on a different route: fly out of Montreal to Ottawa, then from there to Calgary and from Calgary to YLW.

But as she was waiting for takeoff to catch to her connecting flight in Calgary, she received a text from Air Canada: her flight home has been cancelled, again because the wildfire smoke was too thick to make a safe landing.

Senior airport development manager at YLW Geoff Ritchie said the fires certainly have had an impact on airport operations.

“Due to the wildfires in the vicinity of the airport, visibility and wind have been contributing factors to some of the flight delays and cancellations over the past week or so,” he said.

“YLW has been able to stay operational during this time, but each airline has their own procedures as to why and when it would cancel flights based on weather or other local situations.”

For her part, Fayad said airport and airline staff have been patient as events continued to unfold.

“Because it’s not Air Canada’s fault, it’s because of the fires, they’re not liable for anything. They’re not paying for my hotel while I’m stuck here, they’re not paying for the Uber rides I’ve taken to and from the airport, they’re not paying for my food.

“I also have a teenager back home (in Kelowna) and she’s all alone. I’m relying on my community, which is fine, but it’s still extremely stressful as a single mom.”

Since speaking with Black Press Media, Fayad was scheduled to board a 10:30 a.m. flight from Calgary to Kelowna, which was cancelled, but was immediately put into a noon flight, finally arriving at around 1:30 p.m.

Fayad said she’s not sharing her story to put the blame on YLW or any airline, but rather, to show people that climate change is real and affects more people than realized.

“The fires are getting so much worse and we did this ourselves. Yes, I’m in my privileged bubble going boohoo I’m stuck in Calgary… but there are people in Glenrosa, in Westside, in the Peachland area, their lives are burning up right in front of their faces,” she said.

“And what can we do about it? Maybe we should stop burning up fossil fuels, stop doing the things we’re doing to tear up the world.”

Air Canada said in a statement that they continue to monitor the situation in the Interior, and that they will operate flights when it is safe to do so.

The airline also said passengers can continue to make changes to their bookings without change fees if they need to.

READ MORE: Not safe for many White Rock Lake wildfire evacuees to come home yet: North Westside Fire Chief

READ MORE: Central Okanagan regional district directors express sorrow over wildfire losses


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Twila Amato

About the Author: Twila Amato

Twila was a radio reporter based in northern Vancouver Island. She won the Jack Webster Student Journalism Award while at BCIT and received a degree in ancient and modern Greek history from McGill University.
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