pearson airport delays fog

Passenger recounts horror and total chaos landing at Toronto airport during heavy fog

A great fog has descended on Toronto to kick off November, treating the city to breathtaking cinematic scenes of the city obscured in mist, but the weather has also created dangerous conditions on the road and in the air with visibility near zero.

The fog caused pure chaos for travellers this week, with dozens of flights in and out of Toronto-Pearson International Airport delayed or cancelled outright.

One traveller shared their experience trying to fly into Toronto during the fog spell, a reminder of the constant airport chaos witnessed throughout the spring and summer months.

Rahul Dhingra tells blogTO that he was originally scheduled to fly back to Toronto after a business trip in Boston on Wednesday evening, but his flight was cancelled on account of the foggy conditions and dangerous lack of visibility.

Upon learning that his flight was cancelled, Dhingra says he "walked the very long walk through the Boston Logan airport to the Airport Hyatt Hotel."

"On a whim, I asked at the check-in desk if there were rooms for the night. The clerk did some clacking on their keyboard and indicated the lowest fee room they had available would be $429 USD. I said no thanks."

He says that despite the hiccup, "people waiting in the lounge mostly seemed to go with the flow. Nobody was overly angry or outraged."

After spending the night in Boston's Logan International Airport, Dhingra was put on a very early flight to Philadelphia and then changed planes to return to Toronto.

"The first few people in the line to get rebooked for the next morning were put on a direct flight to Toronto scheduled for 7 a.m. the next day. Then that flight was full, and the rest of us were booked on various multiple-leg flights to get to Toronto, including me."

"It was a sinking feeling. On top of that, they described how they don't offer hotel or food vouchers to passengers in the event that the delay is caused by the weather because it is out of their control."

But the persistent fog would further test the patience of these already-delayed passengers.

Though Dhingra says that "The boarding and the flight to Philly went smoothly," he explains that "boarding at Philly for the flight to Toronto had a few more upset passengers. Most people that just wanted to share their stories. One guy turned to me and said he had been trying to get to Toronto from Miami, and he had no idea where his luggage was now."

"I encouraged him to just go with the flow... these things happen... we'll all eventually get there."

Once the second leg of his return flight was finally in the air, Dhingra says, "the pilot came on over the loudspeaker and indicated that it was still foggy in Toronto, and he was going to try to fly slower than usual to give the fog time to clear. This got some passengers talking."

"The pilot then circled above Toronto for an extra hour. He kept threatening to divert to Buffalo or Rochester, but then he attempted a zero visibility landing, and it was scary to not see the ground as we approached."

"After another 30 minutes, the pilot threatened one more time that we may divert, but shortly after, the stewardess announced that we are descending into Toronto and requested seat backs and tray tables to be returned to their upright positions."

"This is when I spotted a landmark out the window, and the passenger next to me shared a big excited conversation about it. We snapped some pics. All this time, we had been circling above Toronto, and we didn't even know it!"

"It looked like a scene from the movie 'The Day After Tomorrow.' A lot of passengers were now talking to each other about the fog and were taking pictures."

pearson airport delays fog

View of the CN Tower captured from the flight. Photo by Rahul Dhingra.

But Dhingra's scariest moment during the voyage was when the plane "started descending through the clouds."

"Everything went dark grey. We've all been through this before. Usually, you just wait a minute, and then the plane breaks through the clouds, and you look down and see the city below. We waited. The descent continued through zero visibility dark grey clouds."

"I was thinking about the scene from the movie 'Die Hard,' where the pilot says something like, 'Dammit we've been circling around here for hours, and I'm almost out of fuel! I'm just going for it, to hell with traffic control!'"

"We were descending in the clouds and could not see the city or the ground yet, and suddenly the wheels touched down! We landed in the cloud! The lady next to me clapped. A lot of people around were smiling and sharing glances. It was thrilling."

With the ordeal finally over, Dhingra says he got home, took a four-hour nap, and hit the ground running, "responding to a full day of missed emails and Slack messages."

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