Travelers stranded on Thanksgiving weekend due to lack of runway lights at Norman Rogers Airport

Kingston resident Amy Laidlaw holds her boarding pass to return to Kingston. Laidlaw missed her connecting flight in Toronto because of a delay at Norman Rogers Airport, and will be returning home instead of attending her friend’s wedding.

About 40 people set to travel out of Kingston in the early morning have found themselves stranded in Toronto after their flight from Kingston was delayed when the runway lights at Norman Rogers Airport failed to work.

The fight from Kingston to Toronto was scheduled to take off at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018 – Thanksgiving weekend. However, the plane and all the passengers in it were forced to wait on the runway for nearly an hour, according to those on the plane.

The plane could not take off because the staff at Norman Rogers Airport were unable to turn on the runway lights, the passengers said. The plane was too large to use the shorter runway at the airport, so the plane sat idle for approximately 55 minutes until “legal sunrise,” one passenger said.

“Everyone was upset,” said Amy Laidlaw, a school teacher from Kingston who is now missing a close friend’s wedding as she was unable to make her connecting flight to Timmins, Ont.

“One man said he if he couldn’t make his connection, he would rather deplane and reschedule for later in the week. I expressed the same. We both missed our connections.”

The passengers were not given the option to deplane, an issue Laidlaw said could have made a difference in her and other travelers missing their connecting flights.

“If the staff and passengers were made aware of the real situation, many of use, including, myself, would have deplaned and driven to Toronto,” she said, noting that she had been at Norman Rogers Airport since 4:30 a.m.

“An agent from the airport boarded the plan in Kingston to tell us the staff at YYZ (Toronto Pearson International Airport) were rebooking people who wouldn’t make their connections. I was told I would make my connecting flight to Timmins by the agent who boarded the plane.”

But that never happened, and Laidlaw, along with a majority of those on the plane, missed their connecting flights. Laidlaw is now returning to Kingston, and would have had to wait until after 9 p.m. the same day to return had someone not cancelled their spot on a sooner flight from Toronto to Kingston. She will now be leaving Toronto at 3 p.m. – and missing her dear friend’s wedding.

“Tonight is my close friend’s wedding. The ceremony is at 3 p.m. with the reception to follow. This event is important for me to be there because he was my support when I was in an abusive relationship, which included physical abuse,” Laidlaw said, adding that she’s been unable to stop herself from crying during the whole ordeal.

“My fried has been supportive, but really disappointed… we were excited to be reunited.”

Laidlaw said she has been told by an Air Canada agent that the staff at Norman Rogers Airport knew about the issue with the runway lights beforehand and waited to tell the Air Canada staff until her flight was taxiing for takeoff. She and other passengers – some of whom were connecting to international flights – would have had time to drive to Toronto if they had been told what was happening, Laidlaw said. She underlined that Air Canada Staff in Toronto had been very supportive and helpful, and added that she is lucky that the hotel she was to stay at in Timmins was willing to refund her fees.

With a wasted day and a missed wedding on her mind, Laidlaw said the incident was “unacceptable.”

“This is Thanksgiving weekend,” she said.

“I will never use this airport again.”

Calls to Norman Rogers Airport were unreturned at time of press (2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018).

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  1. John October 6, 2018
  2. Kaitlyn October 6, 2018

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