The travel headache and turmoil that has become commonplace in recent months at Canada’s busiest airport seems to be taking a turn.
The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), the organization that oversees the operations of Toronto Pearson International Airport, held a press conference Friday to update the public on the progress of the transportation hub.
“We are already far from the finish line, but the actions of GTAA, the federal government, agencies, airlines, and many other partners working together in concert are already having a positive impact,” said Deborah Flint, GTAA President and CEO.
Flint said the airport has seen “measurable” operational improvements in recent weeks after increased travel demand as a result of the lifting of public health restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
These improvements are specifically seen in metrics related to security wait times, flight delays, cancellations, and baggage delivery.
According to Flint, data from the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), which screens passengers before they board the airport, shows that 82 percent of passengers who boarded a flight last week cleared security in less than 15 minutes.
That’s a one-percentage point improvement from the rolling average for the past four weeks, which Flint said is due in part to CATSA hiring “hundreds” of new employees.
The GTAA says flight delays at Pearson are also shrinking — albeit slightly.
Flint said that as of last week, 44 percent of all flights were on schedule. While she admits that’s not a number that GTAA typically touts as a success, Flint said it’s a “substantial” improvement over last month’s statistic of 35 percent.
Passengers who have recently arrived in Pearson from overseas travel may be required to wait on the tarmac due to delays at customs. Flint said that process is also improving due to an increase in the number of CBSA officers at the border.
And last week, only 19 planes were detained on arrival due to lines in the customs hall. In July, the circulating rate of impounded aircraft was 60 aircraft per week.
Flint also credited “simplifying the ArriveCAN implementation” as part of why planes are stuck on tarmac less frequently. Earlier this week, Pearson touted the app’s new pre-advertisement feature — which allows travelers to submit their customs and immigration information 72 hours before they arrive — as an effective time-saving method.
Meanwhile, waiting times at the baggage circuit seem to be dropping as well.
Flint said domestic passengers waited an average of 24 minutes to get their belongings after the flight. That’s three minutes less than they were waiting for last month.
Bags are also returned to their owners three minutes faster for international passengers and four minutes faster for cross-border passengers.
GTAA said it will make the metrics discussed during Friday’s press conference publicly available in the coming weeks and months as a way to provide passengers with a “quick resource” for airport operations.
In addition, travelers can access interactive charts and a “peak dashboard” to help them navigate the airport as more and more people flock to take a flight.
And while the messages sent by Flint on Friday were very positive, quite a few future operational benchmarks were already mentioned in the progress update, apart from Flint saying she is “looking forward” to the day when on-time goals are above 70 percent.
Still, Flint said she and her team were “committed” to providing “the best experience for Canadians and international travelers” – despite being called the worst airport in the world due to delays by the Wall Street Journal last month.
We will continue to solve. To be persistent, to continue to innovate, to create new opportunities and solutions, not just to get back to where we were, but to create an opportunity for the airport of the future,” Flint said.