Jan 6, 2019
SAPPORO - Flight cancellations due to heavy snow in Hokkaido, northern Japan, left around 2,000 travelers stranded overnight at a key airport through Sunday, right at the end of the country's New Year holidays.
Check-in counters at New Chitose Airport near Sapporo were swamped with people looking to book new flights to take them home after 105 flights were cancelled on Saturday.
Near a security checkpoint, sleeping bags and blankets that had been handed out by staff were stacked high. Michio Maeda, a 71-year-old in the construction business, said he had been enjoying vacationing with his family until his return flight to Tokyo's Haneda airport was canceled.
"I couldn't get a good night's sleep because the floor was so hard. I haven't showered and there's no telling when we'll be able to catch a flight back. This has ruined our vacation," he said.
Airline officials said most flights through Monday are already fully booked, meaning people whose flights were canceled will need to wait until at least Tuesday to book a replacement.
The flights on 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 tack on an extra weekend.
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