'Chaotic situation' at Toronto Pearson as travellers wait in massive security lines

People flying out of Toronto Pearson International Airport are being warned about delays getting through security as travellers wait in massive lines to get onto their flights.

Airport spokesperson Tori Gass said in a statement Monday passengers need to "pack their patience" and arrive early as Toronto Pearson experiences "longer-than-expected" wait times at security checkpoints.

When asked about the cause for the delays, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) told CTV News Toronto they are experiencing issues with staffing.

"CATSA's screening contractors are not immune to the recruitment and retention challenges experienced by the broader commercial aviation industry," the CATSA said in a statement. 

The agency said they are addressing the challenge for the future by ramping up staffing and continued information sharing with airline partners.

"Prior to the pandemic, resources could be cross-utilized more efficiently between the transborder and domestic and international checkpoints due to staggered passenger peaks," the CATSA said.

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"As air travel recovers we are observing simultaneous peaks, which can result in passengers flooding more than one security checkpoint at a time, making the redistribution of resources to address these passenger volumes more challenging."

The CATSA said passengers are also increasingly opting to travel with more carry-on bags, which means longer processing times for travellers at security check points.

NDP MP Matthew Green said he was travelling through Toronto Pearson on Monday morning on his way back to Ottawa, and what he experienced was "an absolute gong show."

"Line up into the gate is at least 500-plus deep," Green wrote on Twitter. "There is no way I’m making this 8:10 Air Canada flight."

Green told CTV News Toronto he did not make his plane and was rescheduled to another flight later in the day.

Flying back out to Ottawa this morning from @TorontoPearson and it’s an absolute gong show through security.

Line up into the gate is at least 500+ deep.

There no way I’m making this 8:10 @AirCanada flight. pic.twitter.com/CAMdtxOwOs

— Matthew Green ����✊�� (@MatthewGreenNDP) May 2, 2022

Another traveller wrote on Twitter he has "never seen delays like this at Pearson."

"It's a chaotic situation. Police are helping to control the lines," Doug Asp wrote.

I’ve never seen delays like this at Pearson. It’s a chaotic situation. Police are helping to control the lines. Which is helpful. But thank you for your automated appology.

— Doug Asp (@asp_doug) May 2, 2022

@TorontoPearson @AirCanada domestic flight. 2hours early and STILL not close to security. So infuriating. People gonna miss flights. What to do? No one around to help. Associates say “just wait”.

— Patty O (@Pattyo_chillin) May 2, 2022

@TorontoPearson security line at terminal 1 for domestic flights is BRUTAL. Line is wrapped around many times and starts back out at check-in kiosks. Staff are being short with customers and providing NO information. What are you doing???

— Sarah Dove (@SarahDove16) May 2, 2022

Hey @catsa_gc, what are you doing?

The line length for security screening at Pearson is measured in hours. pic.twitter.com/JBWEFvOdhI

— John "Penjdoe" Doe (@SiouxDenim) May 1, 2022

Gass said in the statement employees in the terminals are "doing their best" to process passengers through security.

"We kindly ask passengers to treat employees with respect," she said.

DELAYS COULD LAST WEEKS, TRANSPORT MINISTER SAYS

Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra was asked about the long lines at Toronto Pearson on Monday.

"I'm a traveller myself and I've seen line-ups grow over the last few weeks," Alghabra said. "I have been working and Transport Canada has been working with CATSA on ensuring that we have the adequate resources to respond to the surge of need for travellers."

He said Canadian airports are seeing "a lot of appetite for people to travel, quickly" and warned he doesn't think the federal government is going to be able to "immediately be able to resolve this."

"It's going to take some time to ramp up, so I think it's reasonable to assume a few weeks for us to get all the resources necessary."

The issue isn't unique to Toronto Pearson. Other Canadian airports, like Vancouver International Airport, are experiencing increased wait times as well.

HOW EARLY BEFORE SHOULD I ARRIVE BEFORE MY FLIGHT?

According to Toronto Pearson's website, passengers flying domestically should arrive at the airport 90 minutes before their flight.

For those travelling internationally, it is recommended that passengers arrive at least three hours before their scheduled departure time.