What Canada is doing to reduce delays for air travellers

Shelby Thevenot
Published: July 26, 2022

The Canadian government is making efforts to reduce traveller wait times and other issues at Canadian airports.

A combination of increased demand to travel and decreased airport staff has left many air travellers facing delays, cancellations, lost baggage and a host of other problems. On July 22, Transport Canada released some stats on the situation at Canadian airports, and how the government is addressing the issues.

According to the release, 81% of passengers were screened by security within 15 minutes between July 11 and 21.

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Toronto's Pearson International Airport's wait times increased during the week of July 18 to 21, when 82% of passengers were screened within 15 minutes. The week before, 78% of passengers were screened in this time. Calgary also saw improvements during the reference week. Montreal however experienced a slow down to 68% of its passengers screened in 15 minutes.

Less than 2% of passengers across all of Canada's airports waited more than 45 minutes to be security screened for the week of July 11 to 17.

Traffic at airports was higher than levels observed pre-pandemic in 2019. About 89,000 passengers arrived at Canadian airports for the week of July 11-17, an increase of 76% compared to the same week in 2019. Departures were up about 83% year over year.

The number of aircraft being held at Toronto's airport decreased significantly since early May. Between July 11 and 17, 58 aircraft were held on the tarmac compared to the peak of 373 during the week of May 23 to 29.

"This decrease shows the significant progress that has been made to date to address bottlenecks and to streamline passenger flows at Canada’s largest airport, by adding more Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers and more kiosks and eGates in the CBSA hall at Terminal 1," the government webpage says.

Canada and air industry partners have been collaborating to reduce wait times and help keep travellers moving. Some of their efforts include:

Collaborating with air industry partners

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra is meeting with leaders at airports and airlines of all sizes across the country to help address bottlenecks affecting travel.

On July 21, the minister met with the leadership of the Edmonton International Airport to discuss the solutions to mitigate congestion and wait times. Alghabra also had similar meetings with officials from the Vancouver, Kamloops and Prince George airports in British Columbia.

Moving random mandatory testing out of airports

As of July 19, mandatory random testing resumed for those who qualify as fully vaccinated travellers at Canada's four major international airports: Toronto Pearson, Vancouver, Calgary, and Montréal-Trudeau. All testing for air travellers arriving in Canada is now being completed outside of airports.

All air travellers required to undergo on-arrival testing will receive an email within 15 minutes of completing their customs declaration. The email contains information to help travellers arrange for their COVID-19 test with a provider in their region.

The government says resuming mandatory random testing outside of airports allows officials to respond to new variants of concern, or changes to the epidemiological situation while helping to alleviate congestion issues at airports.

Increasing staffing for security screening and customs processing

Since April, more than 1,500 airport screening officers have been hired across Canada. The number of officers at Toronto Pearson International Airport and Vancouver International Airport has now reached summer target levels.

Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) is making more border services officers available at the most congested airports by temporarily re-hiring retired officers and additional student border services officers.

Streamlining customs processing at Toronto Pearson International Airport

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority and the CBSA are adding more kiosks and eGates at Toronto Pearson International Airport. In addition, CBSA continues to monitor and prepare for peak arrival times to maximize efficiencies.

Improving ArriveCAN

Travellers arriving at Toronto Pearson International Airport or Vancouver International Airport, and later this month at Montréal-Trudeau International Airport, can save time by using the Advance CBSA Declaration optional feature in ArriveCAN to submit their customs and immigration declaration in advance of arrival.

Frequent travellers are also encouraged to take advantage of the “saved traveller” feature in ArriveCAN. It allows a user to save travel documents and proof of vaccination information to reuse on future trips.

New information resource for passengers experiencing flight delays, cancellations and lost or delayed baggage

The Canadian Transportation Agency developed a new information resource to help passengers who are experiencing issues during their travel. It is a guide that provides answers to many frequently asked travel questions and advises passengers of their rights under the Air Passenger Protection Regulations should their flights be delayed or cancelled, or in the event their baggage is lost, damaged, or delayed.

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