Over the last four days, Transport minister Alghabra has appeared in front of the public three times to proclaim he is on top of the ‘unacceptable’ travel issues consumers faced over the summer.
What exactly is the plan? Strengthening the passenger bill of rights is on the table. A band aid solution at best which does nothing to address personnel issues at airports where, just last week, according to the CBC, hundreds of arriving passengers at Pearson waited over two hours for luggage.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said some air passengers had to deal with "unacceptable situations" during the summer. He said the government is working with the CTA to address the "unprecedented" backlog of complaints.
"I will acknowledge that this is a lot more than any of us had ever seen before," he said. Even though the government has allocated funding to the CTA in recent years - $11 million in the APR 2022 budget alone - to address the backlog, Alghabra said the government needs to start looking beyond throwing money at the problem.
The Minister said that potential improvements include modernization of the security screening process, ways that airports could generate revenue for financial flexibility, and reforming standards for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority and other government agencies.
"We're looking at not only what other resources, but are there processes that we can streamline to make it more efficient so it takes less time," he said.
It all sounds a bit “Presto! Chango!” with nothing factual to back-up the streamlining and efficiency claims other than the prospect of costs to generate airport revenue.
Airports are finding new ways to relieve the pressure, but trouble looms
YYZ has recently introduced a new online tool that shows travellers when to expect delays based on the busiest times of the day.
YYZ also announced in early NOV the launch of YYZ Express that allows customers on select flights to reserve their security screening spot in advance. With that program, passengers can reserve a spot for individuals or groups of up to 10 on certain domestic and international flights at both terminals, where they will be transferred to the express security line. Passengers must arrive within 15 minutes of the reservation time.
“We are entering the holiday season with a consistent reduction in wait times at security screening, before departure and on the tarmac across our largest airports,” a spokesperson for Minister Alghabra said.
Yet, although passengers have noticed an overall improvement in wait times, it seems there is trouble looming. Recent passenger reports from YYZ about delays and congestion, even before the busy winter travel season, have started to mount, with baggage handling labour shortages still contributing to frustrating wait times.
In fact, the backlog of delayed/cancelled flights and lost luggage complaints to the Canadian Transportation Agency has risen to over 30,000 — up from 18,000 in the summer — although the number may have peaked.
As of 28NOV, the wait time to review air travel complaints made to the Canadian Transportation Agency can be more than 18 months.
The solution is team work
Jeff Morrison, president of the National Airlines Council of Canada and member of the House of Commons transport committee argued that accountability in the air travel industry should be a shared effort and that responsibility doesn’t solely rest on airlines. "Airlines don't operate in isolation," Morrison said, adding that carriers rely on airports and other factors to ensure timely passenger arrivals.
Morrison goes on to say that any improvements to air passenger protections should focus on improving service standards across the industry.