Toronto Pearson delays could become 'unsustainable' in weeks ahead, operator warns

Lineups and wait times at Canada's busiest airport will only worsen as the summer season approaches unless the federal government makes some changes, the operator of the Toronto Pearson International Airport warned Thursday.

"It's really a situation that is difficult today, and it's going to become unsustainable because, in the summer, we're predicting around 45,000 international arrival passengers a day," Craig Bradbrook, the chief operating officer of the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA), said in an interview with CP24.

He noted that the airport is seeing an average of 30,000 international arrivals.

People flying in and out of Toronto Pearson have reported long wait times and security lineups, taking to social media to post pictures of lineups.

The airport said departing passengers could face delays at the pre-board security screening by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. The Crown agency said they are experiencing staffing issues, which are currently being addressed.

"They need to really try and fix that. And I think they are working on that. And we've received assurances that everything is being done," Bradbrook said.

"And we as an airport will obviously work with them and with our airline partners to make sure that the passengers have the best possible experience under the current circumstances."

The airport added that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which handles preclearance on departure for all American destinations, is also dealing with staffing problems.

Meanwhile, the airport said they are experiencing high volumes of inbound travellers, which, added with the required COVID-19 health checks, is slowing down the customs processing. It said arriving passengers could be told to wait on their planes or in a designated area.

Delays at @catsa_gc security screening points are causing longer than expected line-ups. If flying from Pearson today, leave yourself lots of extra time and check your flight status with your airline or on our website at https://t.co/pfr3DaHwUI prior to leaving for the airport.

— Toronto Pearson (@TorontoPearson) May 1, 2022

On Wednesday, the GTAA released a statement urging the federal government to review the current travel rules and make changes to ease wait times and prevent further delays.

They include streamlining or eliminating "legacy public health requirements" for arriving international passengers, ending random COVID-19 testing upon arrival, hiring more airport security screeners and engaging with U.S. officials to ensure that capacity at preclearance sites is at pre-pandemic levels.

"We've moved to a surveillance posture. And there are other ways that we can achieve the same outcomes without having to inconvenience the passengers in the way that we currently are," Bradbrook said.

The GTAA has advised domestic departing passengers to arrive at least two hours before their scheduled flight and international passengers to get to the airport at least three hours prior to their departure.

"Certainly, we're seeing a lot of travellers now are happy and keen to travel again," said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra when asked about the situation.
"So we're doing everything we can to respond to it as quickly as we can."