Since 2008, Toronto Pearson Airport has been making headlines for its execution of Taking Flight: The Airport Master Plan 2008–2030. This plan, which sees the development of Pearson into a facility that is guest-friendly, functional, architecturally stunning and cost-effective, has manifested into new technology, new retail and dining options, and new systems and offerings to make the passenger experience more enjoyable. PAX checked in with Pearson to see how its latest developments are being received.
"The Terminal 3 Enhancement Project, expected to be complete in 2017, will improve passenger flow, introduce new and refreshed facilities and retail offerings, and better meet the needs of airport users today and in the future," said Trish Krale, manager, corporate communications, Greater Toronto Airports Authority.
Design was the first aspect of Terminal 3 to be tackled and early in 2014, construction began to enhance it. “The first stage was to install new flooring,” said Krale. “That was to minimize the impact for passengers and employees here at the airport. So you can imagine that the flooring in the Terminal 3 departures area is expansive - we can’t just tear up the floor, so we basically planned out work in sectors.”
Passenger flow is also a big consideration for upgrades at Pearson. “At the east end of Terminal 3 there is quite a noticeable change,” said Krale. “The Terminal 3 International East Pre-Board Screening (PBS) Point, which is where passengers go through screening before they go through the gate, that’s up just recently from five lanes to eight lanes, which will be a better customer service experience for passengers, so that’s exciting.” With this change, the International West PBS point will close.
Krale said going forward, passengers will continue to see a lot of changes, including renovated washrooms and new shopping and dining options. Past development has seen the addition of Nobel Burger Bar, Corso and a second Heirloom Bakery & Café location in Terminal 3 as part of the innovative dining program created by restaurateur OTG.
Krale said utilizing social media to integrate passengers into the development has been key for Pearson. “We have Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to share projects on at #ReThinkT3. There have been a lot of cool things happening in Terminal 3, so if people are interested in following us on those platforms, they can see what we’re up to.”
According to Krale, Pearson is continuing to build upon the existing world class facility that is already Terminal 1. “The biggest aspect of the T1 enhancement project is to meet the changing requirements in processing of passengers and baggage, including continuing to improve passenger flows,” Krale said. “As an example of something that people can see, if you’re on the departures area of Terminal 1 near Aisle A and you look out the window, you’ll see a new baggage facility that’s being built on the west end.” Terminal 1 has also seen a number of new shopping and dining options, such as restaurant Vinifera.
Beyond its social media outreach, Pearson has also begun to upgrade its technology. “We’ve improved our WiFi systems,” said Krale. Krale also noted that OTG has integrated new iPad systems into restaurants: “We have over 2,500 iPads in the airport where you can sit down, surf the web, you can check your flight status, and you can also order food from the restaurants, right from the iPad; the servers will bring it right to your table. It’s a great system. People really like it.”
Pearson also launched a new app in 2014. “People can go on and check flight information or track a flight specifically,” said Krale. “So if you know your parents are supposed to be landing that evening, you can put in the flight information and it will tell you if it’s on time and you can track it. It will alert you if there’s a change to the flight time or anything. It also has a red banner at the bottom indicating to people that flights from certain parts of the northeastern US might be delayed or cancelled because of the significant amounts of snow they’re experiencing there. That kind of messaging has been really good to push out to our passengers.”
Save Your Toonies
Baggage carts at Pearson are now free. “That was a sore spot for passengers in the past, that they had to pay for them, and for any international passengers, having to have Canadian currency is a frustration,” said Krale. “So we’re happy to have been able to respond to those needs and to have put that in place.”
Parking has become a pleasure at Pearson. “I recognize that parking and that sort of stuff is not all that exciting, but for us it is our number one tool that we use to lower our landing fees at the airport,” said Jeffrey Barrow, senior manager revenue & business development at Toronto Pearson International Airport. “The more non-aeronautical revenue we generate - the more parking, the more duty free we sell, the more food and restaurants - we actually offset the fee we charge to our airlines, so it’s a double benefit for the airlines and guests.”
In November, Pearson launched a program whereby passengers can book parking reservations online for up to six months before a flight in one of its 16,000 stalls. “You go online to put in your dates and it tells you all of the parking options and asks if you would like to pre-book your space,” said Barrow. “We guarantee them that there will be space available at the garage.” With Pearson’s new Agent Partnership program, travel agents can pre-book airport parking for clients, complete with promotions and commissions. Corporate Parking Solutions programs are also available to high-frequency business passengers. Pearson has also improved the passenger experience by adding a 7-Eleven store to its parking facility for any passengers returning home to an empty fridge, and also by offering care options such as having vehicles detailed, washed, etc. while parked at the garage.
People, Plans and Passion
Krale said Pearson had a number of reasons for launching this development: “I think it’s just an ever-changing environment. We’re seeing more passengers with different needs and requirements. They’re asking us for these things and we’re happy to be able to put them into implementation and to have a better experience for everybody passing through.”
As for plans for future development both for Terminal 1 and Terminal 3, Krale said this work is ongoing: “The projects that we’ve undertaken are multi-year projects, so people will continue to see some passenger flow changes and they’ll continue to see new retail, food and beverage options. The team has done some amazing work in the past and that will continue in the future.”
Krale said all development will serve to make Pearson even more world-renowned. “As we put these things in place and as people have good experiences here, that will get our name out there as a good airport to travel through. Our passengers are the most important thing - we’re here to serve them, and we’re always looking for the best way that we can do that. Passengers are our passion.”