As eager as you may be to travel now that things are relatively back to normal after years of restrictions, you might want to put off trip plans to later in the summer in the hopes that by then, Toronto Pearson International Airport will no longer be the absolutely overloaded mess that it currently is.
People moving through the travel hub in recent weeks have been encountering agonizing delays as carriers and the airport itself remains severely understaffed, among other issues.
Stories of daunting lineups for security, passengers stuck in planes on the tarmac for hours on end due to congestion at customs, travelers missing their connecting flights and more abound on social media, where people have understandably been airing their grievances with the ongoing situation.
Pearson is well aware of the chaos, and has been periodically warning people that terminals are extra busy and that they may have to wait in long lineups or, if arriving, on planes as a result.
“Your airport experience will be different than previous trips,” reads one of many recent releases that notes a “sharp increase” in air travel.
Along with an insufficient number of security screening personnel and the thousands of layoffs at airlines, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) is blaming continued health regulations for the jams, saying that testing, verifying documentation and the like has increased waits by two-to -four times.
The GTAA has been asking the federal government to help streamline processes by investing in more staffing to help it return to normal levels and eliminating testing and other “legacy public health requirements” from earlier in the health crisis.
Toronto business leaders have likewise issued a plea to Ottawa to toss health measures they see as outdated, and also help fix resource challenges at customs and security points, where lineups have snaked well past the delineated areas, filling up other parts of the airport.
“This is a significant obstacle to business recovery. 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 the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, among other groups, wrote last week.
“The federal government should have planned for the return to travel, and the issues must be resolved immediately … as the summer travel season approaches, it is expected that these wait times will only get worse.”
The groups also gave some stats to back up the anecdotal claims and photo evidence of the severe holdups: nearly 50 per cent of those arriving from international destinations in the previous week were delayed, marking a 20 per cent increase in two weeks’ time.
At some points, the lines just to get through airport security have been an hour and 15 minutes long, and customs, more than two hours, according to posts online.
Pearson and the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) have assured passengers that they are doing their best to tackle the wait time problem, including aggressively posting job openings.
They are also asking that people follow best practices throughout their journeyincluding checking in online before arrival and properly preparing themselves and their carry-on items prior to security, to avoid further holding things up.
Authorities have also been advising jetsetters to arrive well in advance of their flights, at least 2 hours prior for domestic flights and at least 3 hours for international; a huge jump from the usual pre-pandemic recommendations of an hour and 1.5 hours, respectively.
Early mornings appear to be the busiest times, and many fear that things are only set to get worse at Pearson and other major airports nationwide.