Postcard from... Montréal


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The Independent Online


The winter storm that has been crossing North America in recent days has not only seen plunging temperatures and a number of deaths, but the usual travel disruption one associates with extreme weather.

Having visited Montréal a number of times in recent years, I know that trying to fly out of the main Montréal airport, which is about 12 miles out of the city, in the snow, can be an experience.

Your taxi navigates the city streets with feet of the white stuff piled up at the sides (a virtue of the overnight clearing operations) before racing down the highway. 

In winter, if you are not a hardy local, you can spend days trying not to go outside. When the temperature goes below -20C (including wind chill), which it has in recent days, the media is full of warnings about how the chances of frostbite and pneumonia multiply.

Even without weather-based cancellations I was actually advised at the hotel that if I was flying to the US I might want to try Plattsburgh International Airport over the border in New York State. So many Montréalers, as well as those in other parts of Quebec, now use it to fly to some destinations in the US that it has taken to calling itself “Montreal’s US Airport”.

An estimated 70 per cent of passengers come from Quebec, and the airport does its best to cater for a French-Canadian audience, with bilingual signs and a bilingual website. Late last year, local lawmakers also approved $54m (£33m) to upgrade the terminal to handle 300,000 passengers by 2030.