Airport resumes service after de-icer shortage grounds flights

Flights at Victoria International Airport were grounded for much of Monday after the facility ran out of glycol de-icing fluid. The airport scrambled to bring in an emergency supply of 6,000 litres, allowing flights to resume in the evening.

The airport was prepared for rain and flurries, but not three days of almost-constant snow and freezing temperatures that required the de-icing of planes around the clock.

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Enough de-icing fluid to usually last a season was completely used in 48 hours.

Vancouver International Airport supplied Victoria with six 1,000-litre barrels of glycol, which is mixed with hot water to de-ice planes. The shipment was put on an afternoon ferry and arrived at Victoria International Airport about 7:30 p.m. Full operations resumed an hour later.

“We’re so thankful,” said Terry Stewart, director of marketing and community relations. “What a bunch of champs those guys are,” he said of colleagues in Vancouver.

An average of 60 flights — 30 arrivals and 30 departures — come through Victoria’s airport each day. Two-thirds of those flights were affected by the shortage. Stewart could not say how many would have been delayed or cancelled by the shortage.

“This is a very rare circumstance,” he said. “It’s the first time it’s happened.”

A regular shipment of glycol is scheduled to arrive this morning, giving the airport more than enough for the future, Stewart said. Questions regarding how the airport ran out will be studied and answered in due course, he said.

The delays left passengers frustrated, especially when they learned the reason.

Noel Grant and his wife had only a short delay and managed to make their connections home to Abilene, Texas, in time for work today. “However, hundreds of others — including my son and his bride leaving on their honeymoon two hours later after us — had major travel disruptions,” he said by email.

Some stranded travellers vented on social media and whiled away time at airport food outlets.

Brett Morrison posted on Twitter: “And now flights cancelled. Seriously? Out of de-icing fluid? Well done @Fly_YYJ. What a terrible reason to cancel a flight.”

The airport’s White Spot restaurant was jammed with customers all afternoon and into the evening, along with other airport eateries. “It’s been really, really busy,” said James Green, the airport’s director of food and beverage services. “But you do expect that on a snow day. People get here early and delays happen, though they’re hard to predict.”

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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