Expect travel chaos until 2023 at Pearson Airport in Mississauga, industry expert says

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Published July 4, 2022 at 2:53 pm

Delayed and cancelled flights, lost luggage and huge lineups continue to anger and frustrate travellers at Pearson Airport in Mississauga and across the country as the busy summer travel season kicks–or tries to kick–into high gear.

And those who choose to travel by air will likely have to deal with the travel chaos for a long time yet, with no improvement expected until at least 2023, some travel industry experts predict.

Similar issues are plaguing major airports throughout North America and around the world as people flock back to airports at a rapid and unexpected post-pandemic rate.

But Pearson Airport is “right up there” near the top of most chaotic airports, according to one local industry expert.

“Any airport (such as Pearson) that is a hub…all it takes is one flight to get held up,” then the domino effect kicks in and “everything falls off the table,” Martin Firestone, president of Travel Secure, told CP24.

And as Pearson and other airports, and airlines, continue to struggle for a variety of reasons to move travellers through the air hubs in orderly fashion and on time, there’s no magic bullet to fix the problems in short order, Firestone says.

Officials with airlines and the federal government, in addition to the organizations that run airports, have been scrambling to respond to situations of flight disruptions, lengthy lineups, lost luggage and overall general daily turmoil–most notably (in Canada) at Pearson Airport.

Firestone notes that air travel at the best of times runs like a “fine-tuned machine” in which one little wrinkle or problem can dramatically derail things.

But with current issues like staffing shortages and other problems adding to the ever-thin margin for error, chances of airport chaos improve significantly.

“Sadly, I don’t see it getting better the entire summer,” said Firestone, adding people may have to rethink summer travel plans. “(I think) 2023 could be when we get to what I call the new norm; that’s not even the normal that was pre-pandemic.

“I just don’t see it letting up no matter how many new people you’re going to hire…It’s a domino effect. That plane stays at the gate longer than it was supposed to, (then) the next plane can’t go to that gate. Everything backs up at that point. And of course luggage, mechanical issues, now staffing issues. There’s just no end in sight. It just keeps going and going.”

Firestone added that while everyone seems to be pointing the finger elsewhere, all points along the line–from airports to airlines and so forth–are responsible.

“So, it’s a combination of everybody having a problem, from a labour shortage to many, many other things,” he said.

The air travel expert also provided some advice for travellers landing at Pearson. He suggests not having someone pick you up just as the plane’s wheels hit the ground.

“You’ve got a good two- to five hour-wait before you get your bags and disembark out of the airport.”

In response to issues including staff shortages, Air Canada and WestJet are among airlines that announced in the past week that they are dramatically cutting their flight schedules for the summer.

Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, also MP for Mississauga Centre, said at a press conference late last week at Pearson that a surge in air travel demand “beyond what anybody expected” is adding to the troublesome mix.

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