The head of Toronto’s airport authority said wait times and arrival times were 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 earlier this summer had the highest percentage of scheduled flight delays in the world.
Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA) President Deborah Flint held a press conference in Pearson on Friday morning to provide an update on hiring and other improvements aimed at correcting the dire situation in Canadian travel.
“We know the journey has not been easy for the passengers,” she said.
“We will be persistent and dedicated to getting through this transitional time and getting back to normalcy once again.”
Flint said flight data shows Pearson continues to improve, with the airline’s on-time performance at the airport rising from 35 percent to 44 percent in four weeks.
Flint said, “It’s not a number I would normally avoid, but as a correction, it’s “enough.” She wouldn’t provide a timeline, but she said she’d like to see “70 more of that number.” expected to be in the 80 percent range.
The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) is accelerating hiring and training with success, she said, as is the border agency.
Currently, 82 percent of passengers are being screened in less than 15 minutes, Flint said, with only 19 instances of passengers being screened last week due to customs delays, compared to the past four-week rolling average of 60.
Flint said the GTAA is providing more tools that passengers can use to stay updated on airport status, such as a waiting time dashboard based on rolling averages, and that live wait times are expected to be available in the near future. .
Several fingers have been pointed at Pearson’s crisis, accusing COVID-19 restrictions, labor shortages in the air travel sector, and passengers being out of practice. But experts previously told the Star that one of the contributing issues was that the major airlines – Air Canada in particular – scheduled too many flights this summer, given the amount of staff available at the time.
Flint said the GTAA employed more than 50,000 people pre-pandemic among the various agencies and contractors that make up the airport’s ecosystem.
Right now, the airport is at more than half that, she said.
Unions representing safety screeners have said labor issues could lead to further delays in the long term, adding that working conditions need to be improved to attract and retain workers. In June, Star discovered that airport screeners were being offered weekly and monthly bonuses if they agreed not to take vacation during the summer, including sick days.
Flint stressed that Pearson was subject to stricter and longer COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions than many other major global airports, making it harder to ramp up quickly for the 2022 spring and summer season.
“Pearson went from one of the most closed 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.”