The idea of flying into or out of Toronto should be slightly more palatable now than last year, thanks to improving public health trends and procedural advancements at Pearson International Airport (the operative word here being “should”).
With a major snowstorm bearing down upon North America just days before Christmas, millions of people are being warned to reconsider their holiday travel plans for safety’s sake, but snow alone isn’t keeping passengers from their final destinations.
Airline staff shortages continue to pose a big problem for Canada’s carriers, as has been the case since widespread air travel resumed following the last lockdown.
And it’s not only crew members quitting or ghosting on shifts, but air traffic controllers, ground staff and pilots as well.
@WestJet Our flight gets cancelled (due to pilot no-show) after multiple delays. On hold for 4+ hours trying to get answers. Finally I get a response from online chat and this is how the conversation went. Unbelievable. #WestJet pic.twitter.com/j3n3KE6a5w
— Peter (@petabudda) December 20, 2022
Sunwing Airlines, a low-cost carrier known for taking Canadians to sunny destinations down south, announced plans to hire 65 pilots from other countries through Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program in an effort to stabilize staffing.
Those plans were cancelled after concerns were raised by the union that represents some 450 Canadian pilots already employed by Sunwing.
One recent Sunwing passenger says that his flight from Panama to Toronto was delayed by hours because “the pilot didn’t show,” adding an extra four hours of travel time onto an already-stressful and arduous process.
Same! Sunwing rtn flight from Panama Nov 25th. Flight delayed an hour, then we get to the airport & delayed another hour because THE PILOT DIDN’T SHOW! Arrived in Toronto @ 12:13am & Sunwing staff had left. We didn’t get our luggage until 3:40am! We’re disgusted with Sunwing! pic.twitter.com/KJxyQDNBJG
— Terry K (@tmkfinally) December 20, 2022
People flying with WestJet and Air Canada have reported the same issue in recent weeks, one tweeting on Monday that they’d been “delayed more than 3 hours” because “this flight has no pilot.”
Nice. First time I’ve ever been delayed on a flight because a pilot slept in and there’s no one to replace them. Congratulations @AirCanada, voted number one by Skytrax and sleepy pilots. 👏👏👏
— Adam Hassan (@adamislucky) December 18, 2022
Others have recently reported plane delays due to cabin crew and pilots being late, double-booked ground crews, and pilots being forced to cancel jobs because they’ve already worked too many hours dealing with previous delays.
Y’all are liars, the snow stopped hours ago. Your pilots are not showing up!! Tell us the truth and stop blaming your incompetence on bad weather!!!!
— The Kennedy (@ENOBONGKENNEDY) December 21, 2022
When asked directly about the issue of no-show pilots this week, Sunwing replied in a statement that some flights are being impacted by delays on account of the “result of recent weather events and resulting crew constraints across key Canadian gateways.”
“Our teams are working hard to minimize the impact to our valued customers by subservicing aircraft and providing meal vouchers for those waiting at the airport where possible, while our teams in the destination are arranging alternate accommodations and transfer services for those with overnight delays,” said Sunwing.
“We continue to monitor the situation closely both locally and in destination, and anticipate restoring regular service in the coming days.”
You may not be able to control whether or not an airline is adequately staffed or who decides to play hooky and set off a chain reaction that inconveniences thousands of people, but Toronto Pearson did recently release some tips for making the holiday travel go a bit more smoothly.