More than half of flights flying in and out of Canada’s largest airports are being delayed or cancelled, according to data tracker DataWazo.
The Fredericton, N.B-based company has been keeping track of flight operations as travellers in Canada face ongoing interruptions to their itineraries due to increased summer air travel and understaffed terminals.
Between June 22 and 27, 51 per cent of domestic and international flights at Canada's biggest airports, including Toronto Pearson, Montreal Trudeau, Ottawa international, Calgary International and Vancouver International were either delayed or cancelled.
The worst was at Canada’s largest airport, Toronto Pearson, where 12 per cent of flights during that time period were cancelled and 51 per cent of flights were delayed.
Around 54 per cent of flights to the four largest airports were taken off the schedule in the seven days between June 22 and 28. And more than 44 per cent of the 4,815 flights were delayed while 8.5 per cent were cut altogether.
The data comes as airlines, airports and the federal government respond to reports of longer-than-usual wait times, misplaced luggage, changed itineraries and overall havoc, from a mother with children being forced to sleep on an airport floor following a cancelled flight to teen travellers standing in 20-hour line-ups to reschedule a departure.
Canada’s airport security agency says it has hired more than 900 screeners since April, but many remain in training.
Federal officials have also suspended randomized COVID-19 testing of vaccinated passengers through at least mid-July as passenger traffic ramps up for the summer months.
On Wednesday (June 29), the government outlined its plan to move airport testing outside of airports, when it resumes, in an effort to aid the flow of passenger traffic in customs halls.
Ray Harris of DataWazo said the latest flight statistics are based on arrivals page snapshots taken at various points throughout the day, according to the Canadian Press.
Passengers are reporting last-minute emails informing them of delayed flights, aircraft changes or new flight times scheduled days after the original departure.
Reasons cited have run the gamut from absent pilots and crew to occupied baggage handlers to mechanical maintenance.
The federal government removed its vaccine requirement on June 20 for domestic and international outbound travellers to provide their proof of vaccination when travelling by plane or train.
It was believed this action would help increase staffing levels and improve the situation at Canada’s airports.
But documents presented to Parliament and reviewed by CTV National News show the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) had 1,904 officers working at airports in Canada as of May 1, 2022, below 2,033 on Jan. 1, 2020 and 1,981 on Jan. 1, 2016.
As of May 4, 2022, 103 CBSA employees were on unpaid leave due to their vaccination status.
Documents show there were 6,867 people employed by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority's (CATSA) third-party contractors for airport security screenings as of May 16, 2022.
This compared to 7,420 active screening officers on Jan. 1, 2020, and 5,509 on Jan. 1, 2016.
Six CATSA employees were on unpaid leave due to their vaccination status as of June 14.
According to the union representing customs officers, the federal border agency is not moving fast enough to fill staff shortages that have bogged down airport traffic and led to passenger frustration,
"With no end in sight to delays affecting travellers at airports and border crossings across the country, it's clear the CBSA has no plan to get travel back on track any time soon,'' the Customs and Immigration Union said in a release Monday.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra has said that while the federal government anticipated a return to travel, few predicted the surge happening now.
In an attempt to reduce delays and wait times at airports, the Government of Canada, this week, announced improvements to its ArriveCAN program so that it’s “faster and easier” for travellers.
As per an update shared Monday (June 27), travellers arriving at Toronto Pearson or Vancouver Airports will be able to save time by using the Advance CBSA Declaration optional feature in ArriveCAN to submit their customs and immigration declaration in advance of arrival.