Saturday,  July 2, 2022  10:31 pm

IATA offers solutions to reduce “unacceptable wait times” at Canadian airports

IATA offers solutions to reduce “unacceptable wait times” at Canadian airports
A long security line seen at Toronto Pearson airport earlier this month. (Twitter/@MatthewGreenNDP)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is taking a stand against the growing wait times and operational problems currently unfolding at Canadian airports – at Toronto Pearson International, in particular.

In a press release issued Tuesday (May 24), IATA said it has written to the Canadian government, urging officials to take “immediate action” to reduce the “massive delays at immigration and security” which are presently disrupting the country’s international airports.

The situation at Pearson airport, for one, has gained significant attention in media in recent weeks.

Over the weekend, police were called into YYZ to handle tense conflicts between airline staff and furious travellers as anger flared over cancelled flights, misplaced baggage and long wait times, according to the Globe and Mail.  

Wait times quadrupled

Passenger wait times at Toronto Pearson’s security screening have doubled in recent weeks and, in some instances, even quadrupled, IATA said.

Meanwhile, passengers on nearly every second international arriving flight were subjected to immigration delays, which in some cases included waiting on the airplane for up to three hours before they were allowed to disembark.

READ MORE: Police called to YYZ to deal with “angry mob of people from all over the world”

Over the past four weeks, the travel plans of “around 100,000 passengers per week” have been disrupted, IATA said.

As such, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) is currently advising passengers to arrive at the airport “well in advance of their flights” – two hours for domestic and three hours for U.S. and international destinations.

The CATSA maintains that the delays are due to a staffing shortage.  

READ MORE: Out-of-practice travellers, uneven flight volumes causing airport delays, says Alghabra. Not staffing levels

“CATSA is currently experiencing the pent-up demand for air travel occasioned by the pandemic,” wrote CEO Mike Saunders in a statement earlier this month. “This follows two tumultuous years that resulted in a significant number of layoffs throughout the aviation industry, including the security-screening workforce.”

IATA’s recommendations

Barring the option of the government removing the current vaccination mandate for air travel, the use of ArriveCAN for capturing and submitting vaccination and health information, and the random on arrival testing, IATA is asking Ottawa to:

  • Introduce dedicated immigration lanes for arriving international passengers who did not provide their required health and vaccination details in advance through ArriveCAN.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) data shows that the immigration process for passengers where the ArriveCAN details need to be collected on arrival takes three to five minutes as compared to 15-30 seconds in cases where the data has been supplied in advance.

READ MORE: A “chaotic conga line”: Travellers face delays as YYZ grapples with staffing shortage

“This would speed up the immigration for all passengers who completed their ArriveCAN before landing in Canada,” IATA said.

  • Upgrade the mobile app version of ArriveCAN to include the immigration and customs related questions so arriving international passengers can submit their relevant information in advance of arrival (currently only available on the web based ArriveCAN in Toronto and Vancouver).
  • Relocate on-arrival random testing facilities from the terminal / airport and/or offer a home testing option.
  • Ensure that both CBSA and CATSA have the staffing required to offer an efficient immigration and passenger screening process.

“Aviation, along with travel and tourism, were hit particularly hard during the COVID-19 pandemic and even more so in Canada, due to the very strict border control measures implemented by the government,” said Peter Cerda, IATA’s regional vice-president for the Americas.

“Following the easing of many of these restrictions, demand is coming back and it is clear that people want to travel. We can therefore ill afford to have passengers subjected to unacceptable wait times both on arrival in the country or on departure.”

“The relevant authorities must urgently consider removing the last remaining travel related COVID-19 restrictions and work with the industry on policies and processes which will allow passengers to pass through airports with no undue delay.”

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