Grounding of Boeing 737 Max 8 jets creates headaches for March break travellers

CTV Atlantic

Published Wednesday, March 13, 2019 10:18PM ADT

Last Updated Wednesday, March 13, 2019 11:48PM ADT

Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s abrupt decision to ground the Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 aircraft in this country is having an immediate effect at Halifax Stanfield International Airport — and it might continue right into Nova Scotia’s March break.

The airport says there are two frequent-flights from Halifax that use the Max 8: one to London and one to Toronto.

Experts are confident the airlines will figure out contingency plans fairly quickly, all of this is happening at a very busy time for Maritime families.

The writing was on the wall for travellers flying into Halifax — or at least on the arrival board.

With the planes grounded in Europe, Flight 861 was cancelled early; Flight 615 to Toronto followed suit.

Passengers like Brian Wentzell found out moments before boarding. Bad news, considering his best-laid plans for a dream-vacation.

“Well, I had two cruises back to back,” Wentzell said. “So, I’m out at least three thousand, plus this. You know, four or five thousand.”

All of this is shaking down during March break, one of the busiest travel times of the year.

Students from Dartmouth high and Sir John A. arrived almost simultaneously for trips to Berlin and Italy, respectively.

The uncertainty of the last few days has been hard on parents.

“We’re very concerned,” said parent Kelli Tynes-Harrington. “We want to make sure they’re on a safe plane. We don’t know what’s going on, whether flights will be cancelled, but it looks good!  The kids are oblivious of course, it’s just the parents that are worried!”

Neither of their flights were affected, but experts say delays are inevitable in the days ahead, although the larger airlines should be able to handle it.

“If there’s an aircraft half-empty going to one place, they need more capacity on another route, they can move the aircraft around and they can increase frequency of flights as well,” said Gary Howard of CAA Atlantic. “Smaller airlines, it’s going to be a little bit of a tougher go.”

There was mixed reaction from passengers already scrambling to make alternate arrangements.

“It’s just unfortunate in my travel plan, I didn’t plan on staying in Halifax,” said one passenger. “I have nothing to wear. I’ve just got my medicine, and that’s about it.”

Most are taking a philosophical approach.

“There’s nothing you can do about it. I’d rather they cancel the flight than have an inexperienced pilot run into a problem.”

The latter group includes Wentzell, who will now try to salvage what he can of his dream vacation.

“They can’t re-issue here, so you have to go back to the travel agencies or the ticket issuing authority, and it’s not here at the airport, so, go home and figure it out,” Wentzell said.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Bruce Frisko.

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