The head of Toronto’s airport authority said wait times and arrival times are improving after months of delays and cancellations, but acknowledged that Pearson International Airport still has a long way to go.
Airports around the world have been plagued by delays and cancellations for months, but the situation has been particularly bad at Pearson, which had the highest percentage of scheduled flight delays in the world earlier this summer.
Deborah Flint, president of the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA), held a press conference at Pearson Friday morning to provide an update on hiring and other improvements aimed at fixing the dire situation in Canadian travel.
“We know that travel has not been easy for passengers,” she said.
The Greater Toronto Airport Authority says the situation at Pearson International Airport continues to improve, with fewer flight delays and shorter waits for baggage compared with previous weeks. The GTAA’s president and CEO, Deborah Flint, says 44 per cent of flights were on time last week, up from an average of 35 per cent over the four previous weeks. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
“We will be persistent and dedicated to get through this transitionary time and to get to a more normal state once again.”
Flint said flight data shows Pearson is improving steadily, with airline on-time performance across the airport increasing to 44 per cent from 35 per cent over four weeks.
“This is not a number I would normally tout at all,” said Flint, but as an improvement, it’s “substantial.” She wouldn’t provide a timeline, but said she looks forward to that number being “well into the 70 and 80 per cent” range.
The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has been ramping up hiring and training with success, she said, as has the border agency.
Currently, 82 per cent of passengers are being screened in less than 15 minutes, said Flint, with just 19 instances of passengers being held on board due to customs delays last week, compared to a previous four-week rolling average of 60.
Flint said the GTAA is providing more tools that passengers can use to stay updated on the status of the airport, such as wait time dashboards based on rolling averages, and hopes to have live wait times available in the near future.
There have been many fingers pointed over Pearson’s woes, with blame put on COVID-19 restrictions, a labor shortage in the air travel sector, and passengers being out of practice. But experts have previously told the Star that one of the contributing issues was that major airlines — in particular Air Canada — scheduled too many flights this summer, given the amount of staffing available at the time.
Flint said the GTAA employed more than 50,000 people pre-pandemic, between the various agencies and contractors that make up the airport’s ecosystem.
Right now, the airport is at more than half of that, she said.
Deborah Flint, president and CEO of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, holds a news conference at Toronto Pearson Airport. The travel hub has garnered international media attention in recent weeks for being among the world’s worst for congestion and flight disruptions.
Unions representing security screeners have said labor issues could lead to further delays over the long term, and said working conditions need to improve in order to attract and retain workers. In June, the Star found that airport screeners were being offered weekly and monthly bonuses if they agreed not to take days off during the summer, including sick days.
Flint emphasized that Pearson was under stricter and longer COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions than many other leading global airports, making it harder to ramp up quickly for the 2022 spring and summer season.
“Pearson went from being from one of the most shutdown airports in the world to one of the busiest,” she said. “We didn’t go from zero to 100, we went from zero to 500.”
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