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Vancouver airport promising improvements following Christmas season travel mess

Report: two dozen aircraft with passengers aboard waited up to 11 hours on the tarmac

Officials with Vancouver International Airport are promising new real-time weather monitoring equipment, gate protocols and better communication after releasing a review of the travel chaos caused by snow last December.

The report says severe winter weather over seven of the busiest days of the year led to 1,300 flight cancellations and other disruptions that affected more than 180,000 passengers.

The report says two dozen aircraft with passengers aboard waited up to 11 hours on the tarmac because there were no gates available, while passengers were given inaccurate information and communication from the airport authority was inadequate.

It concludes the problems did not have a single cause, but demand exceeded processing capacity due to winter weather conditions, prompting a cycle of delays, cancellations and congestion.

Metro Vancouver was hit with several significant snowfalls between Dec. 18 and Dec. 23, leading to widespread airline cancellations and delays.

The airport authority is promising improvements, including better weather monitoring and baggage-tracking equipment, new gate protocols so passengers can deplane within 30 minutes of landing and better training for staff to improve passenger supports.

“I am not going to sugar-coat it. It was not our finest hour,” airport CEO Tamara Vrooman says in a letter included in the report.

“Our safety promise was kept. Our customer service commitment was not.”

READ MORE: Messy Christmas for travellers as more storms bear down on Ontario, B.C.