Murphy Snarls Canadian Flights

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Airlines worked Sunday to clear a backlog at Toronto's Pearson International Airport after an impressive coincidence of things that could go wrong went wrong on the busy closing weekend of Spring Break. An electrical fire late Saturday closed one of the five runways and affected runway lights and directional signs on the rest. That prompted the airport to reduce landing and takeoffs by 75 percent from about 50 an hour to 12 an hour. Then heavy fog settled on the airport to disrupt the already-limited operation. Air Canada, which uses Pearson as a hub for hundreds of flights each day, was the most seriously affected. "Our operation is currently affected by a significant reduction in runway operations at Pearson which is impacting all airlines on a proportional basis," spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said. To make things even more interesting for Air Canada, about a dozen pilots called in sick just before their flights, which might be related to a bitter labor dispute with the airline.

Pilots and the airline have been unable to reach a contract settlement and the pilots threatened to strike. However, the Canadian government stepped in with back-to-work legislation and made job action illegal. The pilots who called in sick reportedly said they were too stressed to work. Meanwhile, the fog lifted by late morning and crews expected to have the electrical repairs finished before dark.