National

Heavy snow strands 2,000 travelers at Hokkaido airport as New Year holidays wrap up

Kyodo

Travelers in Hokkaido remained stranded Monday after flight cancellations due to heavy snow from Saturday onwards delayed around 2,000, leaving many stranded overnight at a key airport just as the country’s New Year holidays wrapped up.

On Monday, check-in counters at New Chitose Airport near Sapporo were still swamped with people looking to book alternative flights to take them home after 105 flights were canceled Saturday.

On Sunday, 17 flights were canceled and 261 were delayed due to snow removal work, with a total of 45 people spending their second night stranded at the airport.

Airline officials said extra flights had been added, and that most people whose flights were canceled would be able to book a replacement by Monday night.

Sleeping bags and blankets that had been handed out by staff could be seen stacked near a security checkpoint.

Michio Maeda, a 71-year-old working in the construction business, said he had been enjoying vacationing with his family until his return flight to Haneda airport in Tokyo was canceled.

“I couldn’t get a good night’s sleep because the floor was so hard,” he said. “I haven’t showered and there’s no telling when we’ll be able to catch a flight back. This has ruined our vacation.”

The flights Saturday were canceled after it suddenly began to snow heavily in the evening, prompting the airport’s operator to close each of the two runways in turn to clear them of snow.

Japan’s New Year holidays are traditionally through Jan. 3, which fell on a Thursday this year. People who took Friday off were able to extend their break to the weekend.