Sunday,  July 3, 2022  5:32 pm

GTAA asks feds to “temporarily pause” airport testing; int'l traffic set to increase by 50%

GTAA asks feds to “temporarily pause” airport testing; int'l traffic set to increase by 50%
A long security line seen at Toronto Pearson airport in May. (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 Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) is asking the federal government to temporarily pause random COVID-19 testing on arrival in airports until upgrades to the ArriveCan app have been made.

In a statement released Thursday (June 9), the GTAA, which oversees operations at Toronto Pearson International Airport, noted that international passenger numbers are set to increase by 50 per cent “in a few days.”

“In anticipation of a new wave of business and family travellers we urge the government to act immediately,” the GTAA said.

In May of this year, 2,700 arriving flights were affected by metering or holding, affecting the travel plans of more than 490,000 international arriving passengers, the authority noted.

“Travellers are being further delayed because of the time it takes to select passengers for random testing,” the GTAA said.

The ask comes as the Government of Canada faces intense pressure to intervene and help fix operational problems that have plagued Canada’s major airports – Toronto Pearson, in particular. 

The issue has been boiling over for weeks as reports of air passengers being forced to stand in longer-than-usual security lines, not receiving their luggage or being held on arriving aircraft for unreasonable periods of time continue.

"The stakes have never been higher"

The GTAA says it is collaborating with the government on “concrete solutions” and is taking every conceivable step to ensure the airport is ready this summer.

READ MORE: Delays at Pearson airport are “not acceptable,” says Toronto mayor

This includes deploying more staff to aid in the processes that have been introduced during the pandemic, with CBSA adding more kiosks in the Canada Customs Hall, and hiring additional staff.

"The stakes have never been higher, and the world is watching," said Deborah Flint, president and CEO of the GTAA. "We're thankful for the steps that the federal government has taken and their recognition that more needs to be done.”

“This is about much more than Toronto Pearson; it's about global perceptions of our country and the risk that Canada will lose billions of dollars from tourism and business activities if travellers decide that coming to Canada this summer simply isn't worth the hassle."

International passenger numbers at Pearson airport are set to increase by 50 per cent “in a few days," the GTAA says. (Pax Global Media)

Pearson's challenges are “unique” due to scale by virtue of the fact that it is Canada's largest airport and global hub for connectivity all over the world, with much higher volumes of passengers and more international passengers than any other Canadian airport, Flint explained.

"We are committed to collaborating with all partners to implement concrete solutions,” she said.

"We recognize that we have more work to do"

Federal officials, on Wednesday (June 8), reiterated its plan to reduce delays for arriving and departing passengers at Canada's hub airports, stating that progress has been achieved.

“Their response to our request for the addition of more Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers is making a difference,” the GTAA said Thursday.

READ MORE: Ottawa to add 400 screening officers, ease randomized testing to reduce airport wait times

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino and Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance Randy Boissonnault released a statement, collectively, noting a goal to “streamline services” at airport.

"The Government of Canada recognizes the impact that significant wait times at some Canadian airports are having on travellers,” the joint statement read. “We are working with airports, air carriers, baggage handlers, and other partners to implement solutions to reduce delays as we approach the summer peak season.”

The politicians said the vast majority of airports across the country are not seeing the type of delays that travellers are experiencing at Toronto Pearson.

They also said that just three per cent of all air passengers at Toronto Pearson and Vancouver International are now waiting more than 30 minutes in line.

"We recognize that we have more work to do, particularly for international arrivals at our largest airports, and we will continue to work with all orders of governments and partners to reduce the delays in the travel system,” said Alghabra, Duclos, Mendicino, and Boissonnault.

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