Snaking long lines for security checkpoints at Canada’s major international airports have been a persistent problem in recent months, but the federal government now says conditions have turned a real corner towards improvement.
This follows the hiring of nearly 900 more Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) screening officers across Canada since April, with the results of the added workforce now being realized.
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According to a bulletin by Transport Canada on Wednesday, CATSA has now met its summer hiring target and matched its pre-pandemic 2019 staffing levels at the country’s four largest airports.
During the week of June 3 to 9, Toronto Pearson International Airport’s (YYZ) wait times improved from an average of 26% to an average of 13% for departing passengers who waited more than 15 minutes. The issues at Pearson have been particularly severe.
Over the same period, an average of 13% of departing passengers waited for more than 15 minutes at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) — down from 26% of departing passengers who waited more than 15 minutes over the week of May 9 to 15.
As another measure to improve wait times at airports, the federal government suspended random COVID-19 testing for vaccinated arrivals passengers at the airport terminals from June 11 to June 30, but unvaccinated passengers will still be tested on-site during this period. Starting on July 1, all testing for both vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers will be conducted off-site. This frees up the limited airport terminal space for processing passengers.
“The Government of Canada recognizes the impact that significant wait times at some Canadian airports are having on travellers. We continue to work with airports, airlines, baggage handlers, and other partners to implement solutions to reduce delays as we approach the summer peak season,” reads a statement from Transport Canada.
“Our efforts are having a positive impact. Current traveller wait times for pre-board passenger screening at Canadian airports continue to decrease.”
However, even with the improved wait times, Pearson is still strongly recommending passengers to arrive early as a precaution to ensure they do not miss their flight — at least three hours before a scheduled US or international flight, and at least two hours before a scheduled domestic flight.
Early this month, staffing issues forced Air Canada to cancel several flights at Toronto Pearson.
“Long processing times at airports and other restrictions arising from the issues with these third-party providers have resulted in flight delays and, in some instances, cancellations,” an Air Canada representative told Daily Hive.
The “knock-on” effects don’t just impact passengers but also employees as well as airline operations.
“For example, if an aircraft is held at a gate longer than expected or a flight is suddenly forced to cancel, that can affect the schedules of crews and the ground staff servicing the aircraft, disrupting subsequent flights,” they explained.