pearson airport toronto

Toronto Pearson Airport warns of busiest travel day since the pandemic began

The Feb. 28 easing of federal border restrictions came just in time for March Break, and after two years of on-and-off public health mandates that had travel ranging from difficult to impossible, this year's holiday expected to be a big one for Canadian airports.

Pearson Airport is predicting that its busiest travel day since the onset of the pandemic will occur this Friday, with approximately 85,000 passengers expected to arrive or depart at the country's largest airport on March 11.

And that says a lot, as Pearson has seen some jam-packed days between waves of the pandemic.

It will be somewhat of a zero to 100 situation for the airport, which saw an over 92 per cent decline in passengers from 2020 to 2021 for plainly obvious reasons. The airport may not have admitted as much, but it's pretty clear that Pearson staff expect at least a little bit of chaos, based on the advice offered to passengers.

The airport states that it "wants passengers who are travelling for March Break to know what they can do to make their airport experience as smooth as possible as many may be travelling for the first time in two years or more."

Sure, you can travel once again, but it won't be the same airport experience you remember from the before times.

Pearson states that "while selected travel restrictions have been eased, existing government health measures will make for a travel experience that differs greatly from pre-pandemic times. For the March Break period, delays are possible and longer wait times are to be expected due to many COVID-19 health measures still in place."

The airport administration has been cooperating with airlines and government agencies to streamline what is expected to be a mass return to the skies for passengers who have been deprived of travel since early 2020, but there are still some things returning travellers need to know.

Pearson requests passengers "pack their patience," which essentially means don't be awful to the airport staff who are doing their best and haven't faced such crowds in literally years.

Anyone flying out from Pearson on Friday is asked to give themselves even more time than usual for the check-in, security, and boarding processes. Passengers are warned to arrive 90 minutes in advance for domestic flights and a minimum of three hours in advance of international flights.

Passengers arriving from international destinations can expect a very different set of inconveniences. Travel may be back, but that doesn't mean COVID-19 is a thing of the past. A complicated screening process awaits visitors, starting 72 hours before you even board your flight.

Airline passengers arriving from abroad can expedite the process by filling out the Advanced CBSA Declaration feature within ArriveCAN to submit their customs and immigration declaration a full three days before boarding.

Travellers will also have to provide a valid pre-arrival COVID-19 antigen test result taken within one day of the flight, or a molecular test taken no more than 72 hours before departure.

And the fun doesn’t end there, as arriving international passengers will be subject to additional screening and health checks.

All of these added checks are expected to cause some unpleasant delays for travellers, but for the vacation-starved looking to escape the cold, it will probably all be worth the lines and waits.

Lead photo by

Kylie Anderson

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