WestJet Cancels Flights Due To Extreme Cold


WestJet, Canada’s second-largest airline says it had to cancel more than 200 flights because it was too cold to de-ice aircraft. On Saturday, wind chill temperatures went as low as -90 degrees F at Edmonton International Airport, one of about 20 airports the airline serves in the western half of the country. “This morning on January 13, 2023, temperatures rendered de-icing fluid ineffective in Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Kelowna, Kamloops, Fort McMurray, Prince George, Grand Prairie, Yellowknife and Fort St. John,” WestJet said in a notice on its website Saturday. It was also too cold for staff to work outside for any length of time, and boarding bridges and other ground equipment wouldn’t work.

Schedules got back to normal in some areas Sunday as temperatures started to moderate with highs expected in the -20s. However, weather forecasters are predicting a major snowstorm to hit the area in three days. The deep blast of Arctic air has also spread across much of the central U.S. with temperatures in the minus 30s in some areas and widespread snow and ice. About 1,000 flights were either delayed or canceled across the U.S. by Sunday afternoon.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


    • No Mars or the Moon for me.
      Maybe you and Elon can be first to colonize!

      We’s got air here and some water still, even have flowers, birds, and a few fish left.
      The only problem we have are us Homo-Saps! We just can’t seem to get along, let alone “Love One Another”…

      A little cold won’t hurt ya. I’ve seem -79F without a chill factor and made it ok.
      Buck up laddie!

  1. It is also about the quality of the Jet-fuel – JET-A1. There are a lot to learn from Russia and
    their winter operations in Siberia where these temps are “standard”.

    • When we had a Russian team in for certification of Citations and Caravans in Russia, they asked how low a ground cold soak temperature we had tested.

      We responded -40 (C and F the same).

      Their answer “Not nearly cold enough.”

    • It is. From its earliest days climate change theory has predicted disruptions in normal weather patterns including extreme regional fluctuations.

  2. Send Al Gore, John Kerry, and Greta Thunberg up there. They are experts at finding warming where there is none.

      • Yes, WHO could question the credentials of these distinguished scientists!
        OR–you COULD accept the fact that when it is TOO COLD FOR DEICE FLUID TO WORK–PERHAPS WE SHOULDN’T BE FLYING. The airline, the ground crew, and the flight crew wouldn’t dispatch in that cold–why would an untrained passenger or “Global Warming” theorist?

        Nature has a way of discrediting theorists. It’s called “Reality.” Standing by to hear their excuse for their busted theory. (sound of crickets chirping).

    • There’s a difference between “climate” and “weather”.

      The U.S. southwest desert climate is hot. But it doesn’t mean you can’t freeze to death at night.

      Similarly, just because you could freeze to death in the desert on rare occasions, doesn’t mean it never gets too hot to kill you.

    • Reduced sea ice (from warming) disrupts the normal jet stream pattern allowing polar air to move further south. Thus arctic blasts further south are an expected consequence of climate change.

      • Elton, the polar front jet stream exists where the north-south temperature gradient is strongest. As the Earth warms, the latitude where this occurs will move further poleward, not further equatorward, and mid-latitudes will experience fewer of these polar outbreaks, not more of them.

  3. I accept that the general public doesn’t understand windchill (although I find it difficult not to cringe every time I hear it reported in ‘degrees’) BUT I was really hoping the aviation experts would know better and state it in proper units (BTUs or Watts / sq m, etc) – if nothing else, along side the misappropriated temperature units – it would be better than letting them know how little we know. …why don’t we express speed in units of color? Or density altitude in number of bricks? It would make as much sense.

    Why was Air Canada able to fly in these same temperatures? They all use the same deice fluids.

    …and for the record, I checked with my deice friends (in the Deice Bay at a Canadian airport known for its cold wx that shall not be named) and the temp limits on deicing are -45C (ambient, not WC) and -29C for anti icing fluids. I believe -28C was all it got down to – in the cold airport not named above.

    Thanks for letting me rant. …carry on!

    • For those left scratching their heads at Mike’s first paragraph, here’s what’s missing: The wind chill itself is indeed the rate of heat loss from unprotected skin with the effect of wind factored in. The wind chill *index* is what we’re used to seeing in the media. It’s the still-air temperature that would produce the same estimated rate of heat loss from unprotected skin as a given combination of temperature and wind. The units of wind chill index are temperature. A rate of heat loss would have units of energy per time. BTUs are units of energy, not energy per time. So examples of proper units for wind chill would be Watts (Joules per sec) or BTU/sec. Neither BTU nor Watts per m^2 are proper units for wind chill.

  4. I saw a documentary where the featured an airport in Siberia where they had to keep the engines running for fear of the oil become too viscous and the extreme cold affecting tires as well- can’t remember how they affected tires: perhaps them staying misshapen or something like that.

  5. And for the ones commenting on climate: please learn the difference between ‘weather’ (-90 F for example) and ‘climate’ –

  6. Thank you Mike on your comments on wind chill. It’s an over used term, something can’t get colder than ambient – wc is rate of change. Growing up in the upper mid-west wc was rarely used until the media started promoting it to sensationalize (gain viewership in my opinion). By the way, at altitude -40 is the norm. It’s also funny when I hear someone wanting their car’s anti-freeze capability lowered to wc 😉

    • Rae of change due to forced convection. If the deicing fluid is heated, then the airflow (wind) could be high enough to prevent it from working as designed, even if the ambient temperature is within its usage spec.

  7. Wind Chill does not affect inanimate objects, only warm blooded things. Imagine an airliner
    at altitude, where -40 to -60 is the norm, going 600 mph or so…..

  8. re: global warming. Is a measure of yearly average temperature rise, not daily, or even weekly. And global warming is a misnomer. The problem is climate change, of which warming is just one part. The other part is the increase in “extreme” events, such as the flooding of the Florida coasts, the increase in forest wild fires, the loss of rivers and aquafers, the loss of species (have you noticed the distinct lack of bugs being splatted across your windshield when you drive in the summer, particularly in the midwest…just go back to the mid 1980’s for comparison…and the loss of bird populations. The most notable change in the climate and atmosphere are increases in “green house” gasses, directly correlated with the burning of fossil fuels over the past 100 or so years. So yes climate change, unfortunately, is real, and scary. And, no, human’s didn’t do it intentionally! After all, central heating and motorized transportation and electricity are very nice.

    • Since its monday, can someone please explain how ‘manmade’ global warming (ya know, the ones caused by green house gases and the burning of fossil fuels, etc etc) caused the petrified forests in the Artic? They were found (and documented) by British explorers in the 1800’s.

      …for those unaware of the conditions needed to created a petrified forest – well, first the forest had to be there and that takes heat – a lot more than exists in the arctic these days – hence the tundra (no forest!!!).

      I’m not saying the climate isn’t changing. I’m saying ‘mankind’ is taking too much credit for it. …and the government is using it as an excuse to take my hard earned dollar.

      I’m also not saying we shouldn’t respect the planet. Of course we should. …but lets be sain.

      FYI, all those bugs moved to Canada!

      • Mike, two things: First is plate tectonics or continental drift. The land that now sits near the Arctic Circle was once much farther south where the warmer climate allowed tree growth. Over millions of years the surface land masses drift around, sometimes bashing into each other causing mountain ranges, and sometimes moving apart forming shallow seas where much of our current oil supply was formed. Those petrified trees may well have grown somewhere else and got carried north. Second, there have been times in the distant past where the entire earth was warmer than today and the whole planet was ice free. Thus, it was possible to have forests and subtropical ferns grow in the northern latitudes for extended periods. There are a multitude of factors why that happened, but the changes happened slowly over a long time. It changed because the earth’s ecosystems were able to absorb the greenhouse gasses and restore balance. Britain’s white cliffs of Dover and the vast coal deposits in North America are two clues to that adaptation. The difference today is that manmade emissions are causing the change faster than the earth can adapt and absorb the higher CO2 content. The result is more extreme weather conditions, both high and low.

    • That is a perfect explanation Rich K. It should clear up a lot of confusion among the naysayers. Thank you. Climate change is not only rising average temperatures, it’s all the extreme weather that is happening. One extreme cold weather event like this and suddenly last year’s extreme droughts, floods, high temperatures, hurricanes etc. are conveniently forgotten.

      • I thought it was a great explanation too! …right up until John stated the entire planet used to be ice free and warm. Because (again), people weren’t responsible for that were they?

        • Did you also read the part where John said this? “There are a multitude of factors why that happened, but the changes happened slowly over a long time. It changed because the earth’s ecosystems were able to absorb the greenhouse gasses and restore balance. Britain’s white cliffs of Dover and the vast coal deposits in North America are two clues to that adaptation. The difference today is that manmade emissions are causing the change faster than the earth can adapt and absorb the higher CO2 content.”

  9. The 1990s-built Lear 60s I flew had takeoff/landing performance numbers for the range of -40c to +40c. Any hotter or colder would preclude being able to dispatch the aircraft because performance could not be determined. I have no idea of the range available to air carrier types but I presume it is wider.