toronto airport

Passengers complain of overcrowding and utter chaos at Toronto's Pearson airport

With restrictions now notably eased for most Canadian travellers (and in day-to-day life in general), airports like Toronto Pearson International are getting progressively busier, much to the dismay of those eager to get away from Toronto for the first time in many months.

Though such measures as the mandatory hotel quarantine and 14-day isolation period are now things of the past for fully vaxxed citizens and permanent residents, there are still stringent procedures in place for everyone coming through the travel hub, which has made things a bit of a shit show, by online accounts.

Though seasoned globetrotters already know to expect the worst as far as lineups at security, flight and baggage delays, customs wait times and the other fun quirks of air travel, many do not seem prepared for the chaos that YYZ has become as staff and customers adjust to the new realities of travel.

Photo and video footage taken over the last week shows some very frustrated people stuck in uncomfortably overcrowded scenes — no physical distancing in sight — while complaints of hours-long lineups at customs, for COVID-19 tests, and more abound.

Air travel from Pearson in the first quarter of 2021 was down to only 11 per cent of what it was the same time last year, but as far as Q2 is concerned, the numbers aren't available yet — and things certainly seem to be busier.

Some have even cited missing their flights completely because of the overly long process of actually getting through the airport and to their gate.

And while some have noted helpful ground staff from various airlines, others were left enraged at a lack of help or leadership from airport personnel, with "zero organization," no crowd control, and no efficiency.

A program that Pearson had introduced to help speed up the customs process by dividing fully vaccinated passengers from those who are partially or unvaccinated (and thus face different procedures) was nixed after backlash this week.

The airport, operated by the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, has now been warning customers on its social media channels that new government travel requirements may indeed lead to delays, and that the airport is extremely packed as of late.

"Right now the airport is very busy," the hub's official Twitter account said in response to a passenger inquiry on Monday. "We recommend to give yourself plenty of time before your departure. Safe travels."

While everyone adjusts to new protocols, there are many measures in place to facilitate airport flow, as outlined by GTAA spokesperson Beverly MacDonald to blogTO. As always, staff are trying their best to keep things as well ordered and safe as possible.

These measures include the enforcement of physical distancing and mask mandates by staff and through signs and decals, regular PA announcements to help inform passengers of new processes and requirements, and the promotion of educational content on the airport's social media channels.

"The end goal is helping passengers understand that the airport experience today differs from pre-pandemic times... [and] many people may not have travelled by air in the last year or more," MacDonald says.

"For example, due to government travel requirements, passengers arriving from international destinations will experience additional screening, health checks and potential delays during the arrivals process."

With the Canadian border set to reopen to fully immunized Americans in less than two weeks, as well as to fully vaxxed travelers from other international destinations shortly after, people can expect that Pearson will continue to be a bit of a mess.

MacDonald says, though, that "as interest in air travel increases, collaborative work will continue to ensure that measures and processes keep in step with changing public health, safety and operational requirements."

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