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Airlines in final stages of clearing huge backlog of flyers at Pearson airport

TORONTO - Canada's two biggest airlines say they're close to clearing the backlog of passengers who had flights delayed or cancelled during this week's partial shutdown of Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick says the airline's remaining travellers who had their plans disrupted when the airport temporarily stopped North American flights Tuesday should be cleared as of Friday.

WestJet's Robert Palmer says flyers who were impacted by the shutdown have now all been booked on new flights.

The delays were a result of extreme cold triggering a ground stop at the Toronto airport on Tuesday, which prevented North American flights from landing for more than eight hours.

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority, which runs Pearson, says it's looking into how it responded to the deep freeze, which saw 600 flights cancelled Tuesday and another 400 scuttled Wednesday.

It says airlines and the civil aviation service NAV Canada will be involved in the review.

Air Canada and WestJet brought in additional capacity to shrink the backlog, which WestJet says affected some 22,000 of its passengers travelling through the airport.

Air Canada added roughly 5,000 more seats in the last three days, while a chartered Boeing 747 jumbo jet carried nearly 500 WestJet customers from Toronto to Calgary on Thursday night.

"It's probably the biggest disruption in recent memory," Palmer said.

Air Canada's Fitzpatrick says a large backlog of luggage still remains but that the personal cargo should be reunited with owners this weekend.

Pearson instituted the ground stop after Tuesday's wind chill readings hovered around the -40 C mark.

Airport officials said it was necessary because of how the cold was affecting equipment and to minimize time outdoors for employees.

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