pearson airport toronto

Toronto's Pearson Airport is now world-famous for ridiculous delays

Pleas for someone to do something about the absolute chaos at Toronto's beleaguered Pearson International Airport have reached a fever pitch on the heels of a viral video dispatch from former NHL player and popular podcast host Ryan Whitney, who on Monday decried the travel hub as "the worst place on earth."

Whitney, who hosts Spittin' Chiclets for Barstool Sports, documented his brutal experience at the airport on Twitter earlier this week, complaining of long customs lineups, insufficient staffing and the abrupt cancellation of his Air Canada flight.

In total, he appears to have spent nearly 30 hours at Pearson during his inexplicably-extended journey from Edmonton to Boston, sharing plenty of damning details and footage along the way.

One video in particular in which Whitney details waiting in line for six hours at an Air Canada kiosk only to be blown off has exploded online, garnering more than two million views and international media attention.

Whitney explains in the now-viral video that he arrived in Toronto around 3 p.m. from Edmonton on Sunday. He proceeded to wait in line at Canadian customs for three hours before learning that his 8:30 p.m. Air Canada flight to Boston had been cancelled.

The podcaster says he then started waiting in a lineup more than 400 people deep to speak with one of two Air Canada staffers who were working at the time. Six hours later, the kiosk was closed and he was forced to go through customs again.

Around 1 a.m., Whitney says he was finally able to talk to an Air Canada rep. Having arranged a ride to Buffalo, he simply wanted to get his bags and leave at that point, but was told by the airline that his bags were not accessible.

He agreed to an 8:50 a.m. flight and arrived nearly four hours early for it, only to be told — again, without any warning or official communication — that he'd been put on another, earlier flight from Toronto to Montreal to Boston, but that he didn't have time to go through customs and make it.

"I'm so in shock at this place... it is the biggest disgrace known to man," he said in his video, no doubt wishing he'd simply chosen to drive the 8.5 hours from Toronto to Boston.

Now safe and sound at home in the States, he is declining interview requests but made his thoughts about Pearson International Airport clear on Twitter Monday afternoon: "God bless anyone who ever has to step foot in that hellhole."

Air Canada is blaming this, and other recent horror shows on such factors as Pearson's baggage system and staffing issues with "government third-party providers" such as the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), a Crown corporation responsible for screening all people and bags.

"Long processing times at airports and other restrictions have resulted in flight delays and in some instances cancellations and these can have knock-on effects not only for our customers but can also impact our employee resources and operations," said the airline in a statement.

CATSA, meanwhile, blames Whitney's ordeal on Air Canada, noting that "rescheduled flights and flight delays are the responsibility of air carriers."

Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said last month that these troubles can be blamed on travellers themselves, suggesting that the general public is rusty or "out-of-practice" when it comes to flying after two years of being locked down.

Meanwhile, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), which operates Pearson, continues to advise incoming passengers online that "Additional [government] health checks are still in place at Canada's borders, increasing processing times."

"We deeply regret the experience that Mr. Whitney and fellow travellers have endured. As the air travel industry recovers from COVID-19, we understand that the delays experienced by some travellers at Canada's airports can be incredibly frustrating," said the GTAA in a statement to blogTO.

"There are a number of factors that can affect the traveller experience... Please also note that on Sunday a ground delay program was put in place by NAV Canada, the nation's air navigation service provider. This also contributed to the delays experienced by some travellers."

It's likely a combination of many factors leading to the chaos at Pearson and other airports around the world, but Canadian airport operators seem to agree that one change could really smooth things out: Nixing vaccine requirements.

The Canadian Airports Council, of which the GTAA is a member, issued a statement this week in the wake of Whitney's video calling for "the removal of vaccine requirements for air passengers and aviation employees."

"The aviation community has been a supportive partner of the federal government in facilitating the vaccine mandate for travel since October 2021," reads the statement.

"However, today all Canadian provinces have removed vaccine restrictions, so there is now a different standard for aviation employees and transportation than for other Canadians."

"Aviation is global. In order to support this industry's economic recovery and compete globally, Canada must align with the international community and join the list of over 50 countries that have already removed vaccine mandates and COVID protocols for travel."

The GTAA itself put forth a similar appeal directly to the feds in early May, calling upon Canada to "streamline or eliminate inbound legacy public health requirements at Canada’s airports, and in doing help to alleviate bottlenecks for international arriving passengers."

The airport is also asking the government to eliminate random testing upon arrival and "invest in the necessary government agency staffing and technology to achieve globally competitive service level standards."

Toronto business leaders also asked the federal government to address the air travel situation at Pearson last month, stating that action is needed to "immediately address resource challenges with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to streamline international arrivals by eliminating legacy Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) measures."

It remains to be seen if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will respond to these requests, if he's even listening at all.

Lead photo by

Ryan Whitney


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