toronto airport

Here's why the security system is causing major chaos at the Toronto airport right now

It seems like the whole world has its eye on Pearson airport right now with a stream of airport horror stories that keep growing in number on social media. 

Cancelled flights, massive delays and extended wait times and baggage claim areas that are completely out of control are forcing people to lash out against airport staff who are unable to keep up with increased demand, limited staffing and time-consuming health and safety protocols that leave travellers waiting in lines for hours. 

A former airline chief operating officer posted a thread on Twitter recently that shed light on why everything in the airport is delayed, detailing the root of the problem. 

Duncan Dee is a former airline chief operating officer that has been railing against the airport chaos at Pearson for two months now.

According to him, unless the government acts decisively within the next three weeks (when summer travel reaches its peak), things are only going to get much worse. 

"What's happening right now is a total and complete meltdown on some very, very basic government services," said Dee. 

Dee was appointed by the government to be on the panel to review Canada's Transportation Act in 2014, taking part in an in-depth dive of all aspects of the transportation industry in Canada.

The panel had made it clear at that time that the air security component of the air transportation sector in Canada was fundamentally broken, calling for significant changes to the way air security is run in Canada. 

Dee has anticipated these events for years now, making it known to the government that these changes had to be made. 

"What's happening now is basically what's been happening for years. The only reason why it's so public now is it can no longer be ignored. This is not something that's a surprise to me at all. This is in fact something that was predicted and totally predictable."

Canada's air security system is unique in the world. While in most countries the security provider and security regulator are two separate entities, Canada is run by multiple different agencies and unions that each have their own separate performance strategies and training modules. 

This results in a lack of consistency and accountability across the air security system - it's impossible to hold anyone accountable or put together a national standard, what Dee calls a "multiple headed beast" and "dog's breakfast of an accountability matrix" - a recipe for disaster that could have been foretold years ago. 

Dee laid out a few small steps that Pearson could be taking right now to remedy the situation inluding:

  1. The government using data they already have to expedite screening for trusted travellers
  2. Making aircraft crew a part of the security infrastructure
  3. Changing the 20 year old governance model of the security system in Canada that has never worked

Most importantly, he expressed the need for more Canadians to make their voices heard. 

"I think [the situation] is going to change, but it's only going to change if Canadians speak out - and this will be uncomfortable for the government, but they can't ignore it any longer. We need to place the blame on where it actually belongs."

"I was starting to see a lot of tweets where people are saying airports aren't doing enough, lacking an operational context. And since I'm a former head of operations at Air Canada, I thought I could provide [that] context."

Dee has received many messages from airline employees since he started tweeting about the daily disasters at Pearson, relieved to hear someone address what they're living through each day. 

"They're not intending on keeping bags from being delivered for two hours and they're not intending for people to wait at the checkout counter. There are no staff, everyone's running around trying to do the jobs that they are trained to do. But the situation that they're being placed in has made it impossible."

If you're planning on travelling within the next few weeks, be prepared for exceedingly longer than normal wait times. If possible, depart one day earlier than originally planned, particularly if you are trying to make it to an important event like a wedding or booked cruise. 

Oh, and of course, even when patience runs thin - be nice to your fellow travellers and airport staff. They're doing the best they can. 

Lead photo by

Duncan Dee

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