Saturday,  September 30, 2023  10:13 pm

Summer travel readiness uncertain as Canadian airlines log high number of delays

  • Air
  •   04-26-2023  10:14 am
  •   Pax Global Media
Summer travel readiness uncertain as Canadian airlines log high number of delays
(Ekaterina Pokrovsky/Shutterstock)
Pax Global Media

The question of how prepared Canadian airlines and airports are for this summer’s travel rush is being raised as weak on-time records have come to light.

According to OAG, an aviation data firm, major airports and carriers in Canada had more flight delays in March compared to U.S. airlines, and compared to their own performance in 2019.

Toronto Pearson airport saw 61.2 per cent of flights leave on time within 15 minutes of their scheduled departure versus 73 per cent four years earlier, OAG says.

In contrast, New York's JFK airport and Chicago's O'Hare airport had on-time performances of about 73 per cent and 79 per cent, and within a couple percentage points of O'Hare's 2019 rate.

Air Canada's on-time arrival rate was 57.3 per cent in March versus 69.6 per cent in March 2019.

Travellers pass through Toronto Pearson airport in June of 2022. (Pax Global Media)

The latest number also contrasts to the 77-to-79 per cent range for three of the biggest U.S. carriers, though they generally face kinder weather conditions.

WestJet and Porter landed about 63 per cent and 65 per cent of their flights on time in March, respectively, compared with 80 per cent and 82 per cent in 2019, the firm says.

The numbers call into question whether Canada’s aviation system is truly ready for another busy season of travel.

Last year, amid staffing challenges and operational issues, major Canadian airports grappled with long line-ups at security checkpoints, lost luggage, as well as a high rate of delayed or cancelled flights as the travel industry, after years of pandemic-related shutdowns, reopened.

Last July, Toronto Pearson airport, for one, claimed the top spot for flight delays globally, according to flight tracking company FlightAware.

Then, last fall, in a study by U.S. market research firm J.D. Power, Pearson ranked fifth-last in overall traveller satisfaction among 20 “mega airports.”

Last winter’s holiday travel season also didn’t go too smoothly after a snowstorm slammed into select regions in Canada, crippling networks and flight performance times.

"Systemic issues"

Former Air Canada chief operating officer Duncan Dee told the Canadian Press on Tuesday (April 25) that the latest statistics in flight performance point to systemic issues across the Canadian aviation sector

“What is shocking to me from these numbers is that all three major national Canadian airlines face very similar on-time performance challenges," Dee told CP.

Toronto Pearson International Airport. (Pax Global Media)

“The only conclusion is either Canadian airlines are operationally challenged or that operating in Canada involves common structural issues which all three Canadian carriers face, which makes their on-time performance markedly poorer versus their U.S. peers,'' he said.

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick told CP that the airline is making a “concerted effort'' to reduce delays.

He also highlighted the funding differences between the U.S. and Canada.

“The U.S. government has announced US$40 billion in investments over the last few years in airport operating and infrastructure support, while the Canadian government continues to extract hundreds of millions in rent from Canadian airports. The industry has made the point repeatedly that to improve the travel experience for people, the government should be investing in all aspects of the air transport system,"  he wrote.

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