Heading Home?

Canada’s airports are in chaos, especially Toronto’s Pearson Airport. That is the airport I am supposed to fly to today. I’m not looking forward to the experience.

When reports of problems processing passengers first surfaced a few weeks ago, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra placed the blame squarely with air travelers. People had forgotten the routine during the pandemic he said. It was taking them longer to unpack their laptop computers for examination and that was causing system-wide slowdowns. 

As someone who has traveled recently I had to question that. Outbound security seems to me to be moving faster than usual. It is the return where the problem is.

Last August my flight was late, then held on the tarmac for an hour before being assigned a gate at Pearson Airport. It isn’t that there were no gates available. It ways that there was no room in the customs area as borer security was taking a long time t process people.. Things have only gotten worse since then.

In April 2019, 18 planes were forced to wait on the tarmac at Pearson half an hour or more before their passengers were allowed to de-plane. In April 2022 that number was more than 2,000. Somehow I don’t think the issue was people being slow to take their laptops out of the carriers.

The government has also suggested ongoing staffing shortages are contributing the to the delays, while a the same time noting that air travel is at 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, while airport staffing is at 90 per cent. So it is not a staffing issue?

Industry reports say the slowdowns are caused by stringent pandemic measures long-dropped by other nations. Yet Canada’s government doesn’t want to reveal what guidance it has received from health experts to justify keeping the slowdown in place. Last week the Liberals voted down an Opposition motion to drop the COVID-19 travel restrictions that are slowing things down. Then they announced the extension of those measures until at least the end of June.

There have been anecdotal reports that the government has asked the airlines to cancel flights to ease the congestion. No consideration what that would do to the plans of those who may have booked flights months in advance. It seems to me as if the government has some explaining to do. In the past month I have flown in and out of four other countries besides Canada. None were as restrictive (and none are experience COVID-19 surges die to travel).

I was at Gatwick airport in London a coupe of weeks ago, the day after media reports of increased wait times and long lines. I got there early (on the airline’s advice) and sailed through the checkpoints. It was a pleasant experience, or at least as pleasant as air travel is these days. And, unlike travel in Canada, face masks were optional.

If there are public health reasons why Canada has to enforce restrictions long after other countries have dropped them, it would be beneficial for the public to be so informed.

Otherwise it just looks like yet another example of Liberal tunnel vision and unwillingness to listen to what their experts are telling them. 

One comment

  1. Phil Allan · · Reply

    Some excellent questions raised. One wonders why there is not as many questions being raised by opposition parties, member of which must be flying into and out of Ottawa frequently, and by the media, some of which are in the same boat (plane?).

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