ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — A Newfoundland man was barrelling home Wednesday in a rented Toyota Corolla after his WestJet flight from Toronto to St. John’s was cancelled three days ago.
David Bradbury hasn't seen his wife since September, and he said all he could think about as he drove across Eastern Canada was throwing his arms around her as soon as he walked in the front door.
"I can't wait," he said in an interview Tuesday night as he waited for the ferry from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland's southwestern tip. "I'm going to hold her and never let her go."
Then he said he would snuggle his three-month-old grandson for the very first time.
Bradbury was one of thousands of passengers stranded by a WestJet flight cancellation Sunday. The company said in an email it cancelled 576 flights from Sunday to Wednesday, largely because of snow and extreme cold in Western Canada.
As the holidays are the busiest time of year for travel, there were few alternatives available for those searching for a way home, the airline said.
Bradbury works in British Columbia on the Trans Mountain pipeline, and he hasn't been back home to Newfoundland since May. His wife flew out to visit him in September, he said, and his grandson was born that same month.
About 200 people were scheduled to be on the cancelled flight to St. John's, including families with small children, he said. Many, including himself, were told they likely wouldn't get home until Boxing Day.
Rather than hope for a Christmas miracle, Bradbury rented a car and hit the road Monday morning at 9 a.m. for a journey of more than 3,000 kilometres. When his ferry from Nova Scotia landed in Port aux Basques, N.L., at about 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, he had only 884 kilometres to go before he reached his home in Conception Bay South, on the other side of Newfoundland.
"I've been looking at the weather, and so far, so good," he said Tuesday night ahead of the final drive. "I'm going to be with my family for Christmas. That's all that matters."
Nathan Wilson was also on the cancelled WestJet flight to St. John's. He and his companion managed to find last-minute seats on two separate Air Canada flights, he said.
"We were basically spending all day at the airport and then all night; every hour or half hour, we'd set alarms to refresh all these different airlines to see if something would come up that we could book," he said in an interview Tuesday. "I know I wasn't the only one from the group doing that."
He said he snagged the Air Canada seat at about 2 a.m. on Tuesday. The flight was an added cost, he said, adding that he was also scheduled to work on the days he was stuck in Toronto. "And I work in health care," he said. "So it was a little bit of a scramble to try to get people to cover for some of the shifts."
Wilson said he still doesn't know if he'll be reimbursed for his cancelled WestJet flight, adding that the direction and communication from the company has been sparse and unhelpful. Many families were still stranded in Toronto when he left, and they will likely be spending Christmas in the hotel room WestJet provided for them, he said.
Bradbury, too, said he was frustrated with WestJet's communication and response. "We still don't know what the reason for the cancellation was."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 21, 2022.
Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press