Several federal government ministers whose portfolios overlap when it comes to factors affecting the delays at Canada’s major international airports issued a statement Wednesday, 15JUN, claiming their collective efforts are “having a positive impact” on the problem that’s made headlines for weeks.
Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport, Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health, Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety, and Randy Boissonnault, Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance all put their names to the statement that begins: “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.”
According to Ottawa, its moves to date are already bearing fruit.
The ministers claim that, “Current traveller wait times for pre-board passenger screening at Canadian airports continue to decrease.”
And that only half the number of pax are now experiencing long delays compared to a month ago.
“During the week of June 3-9, an average of 10 percent of departing passengers waited more than 15 minutes at Toronto Pearson International Airport, compared to 23 percent during the week of May 9-15. And for the same dates at Vancouver International Airport, this improved to 13 per cent from 26 percent of departing passengers who waited more than 15 minutes.”
Blame has fallen on the federal government for not being prepared for a resurgence in air travel following the relaxing of pandemic restrictions.
Specifically, critics in the industry have claimed staffing for outbound security checks and inbound border officials, as well as the extra time required for “legacy” COVID health protocols, paralyzed airport processes and resulted in extraordinarily long lineups, pax missing flights, and planes being held on the tarmac while enough space was cleared in the airport for pax to deplane.
Wednesday’s statement by the federal government ministers lists how Ottawa has responded to the criticism and its role in un-jamming bottlenecks.
According to the ministers:
- Since APR, nearly 900 CATSA screening officers have been hired across Canada. Ottawa says CATSA has now met its summer staffing target, and matched its pre-pandemic staffing levels at Canada’s four largest airports.
- In addition, Ottawa is prioritizing clearances for CATSA screening officers to expedite hiring process and building immediate capacity.
- For inbound international pax, CBSA is also “maximizing officer availability and additional Student Border Services Officers are now at work.”
- In addition, CBSA and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority added kiosks for incoming pax in customs hall areas.
- As of 11JUN mandatory random testing has been temporarily suspended at all airports until the end of the month. And beginning 01JUL, all test swabbing, including for unvaccinated travellers, will be performed off-site, removing the problem from airport congestion.
- The Public Health Agency of Canada has taken on a role in ensuring its impact on travellers at airports is minimized. PHAC is putting staff at airports to verify that travellers have completed their ArriveCAN submissions on arrival is helping travellers in completing ArriveCAN if they were unable to do so. Ottawa has said that incomplete ArriveCAN statements have contributed to bottlenecks as those pax are required to be treated as unvaccinated.
- Federal ministry reps, CATSA, CBSA and key industry partners “continue to meet regularly to find solutions to address bottlenecks at pre-board security screening and pre-clearance departure checkpoints, and customs halls.”
- And Ottawa says it’s upping communication with travellers and stakeholders through social media, signage and multimedia screens to better educate them, facilitating a smoother passage in and out of airports, as well as keeping them updated.
Finally, the ministers recognize that, “there is still work to be done, particularly for international arrivals at our largest airports, and we will continue to work with partners to reduce the delays in the travel system.”