pearson airport news

People are now begging the Canadian government to fix Toronto's airport mess

If there's anyone that can remedy the present turmoil at Toronto's Pearson Airport, it's the federal government — at least, that's what everyone in the travel industry is not only hoping for, but demanding ASAP.

The Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) is the latest stakeholder to add its voice to the call for Ottawa to intervene and provide the resources to hire on more staff in order to deal with the glut of people itching to catch a flight after years of lockdown.

"It is absolutely irresponsible of the federal government to let the situation stand as it is," said the CIU national president in a release on Wednesday.

"It should come as no surprise that there are significant delays in inbound traveller operations when few officers are assigned to primary inspection, with many booths remaining empty at peak times."

The agency only expects things to get worse, even if the public health measures holding things up even further — which many groups are asking Justin Trudeau to loosen at this point — are eventually removed.

It also says that there are only about half the number of border officers needed to process the current volume of passengers at Pearson on a typical day — "a critical shortage" — and notes the delays and disorder that measures like the ArriveCAN app are causing.

Hiring sprees have not been successful in getting enough people on board, with security, customs and airlines themselves short-staffed.

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), which operates Pearson, likewise issued an appeal to Justin Trudeau earlier this month, bemoaning severely increased wait times and backlogs at customs and security points.

"Wait times for departing passengers at security screening points are being negatively impacted by staffing challenges at the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA)," the GTAA wrote.

It then asked the feds to get rid of legacy public health requirements brought on during the pandemic (such as COVID testing, checking proof-of-vaccination and ArriveCAN), and to invest in more staffing and technology.

Toronto business leaders asked for the same in a release a few days later, saying that the mess is undeniably impacting business recovery in the city.

"The federal government should have planned for the return to travel, and the issues must be resolved immediately," the Toronto Region Board of Trade and others wrote.

Horror stories from Pearson have been all over social media in recent weeks, from images of suitcases packed like sardines in baggage claim, reports of people stuck in grounded planes for hours due to customs bottlenecks and missing connecting flights, and gigantic lineups and wait times during all parts of the travel process.

Some are now avoiding Pearson altogether and driving or flying out of other hubs to save themselves the stress.

Lead photo by

Becky Robertson

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