Travel chaos at Pearson Airport in Mississauga will be fixed, summit concludes

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Published November 25, 2022 at 11:58 am

Travellers who use Pearson Airport in Mississauga won’t have to deal with as much chaos surrounding their flights and luggage moving forward as they did this past summer, a summit hosted by Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra has concluded.

The one-day Air Sector Recovery Summit held on Thursday (Nov. 24) saw Alghabra and other federal government officials brainstorm with members of the airline industry to ensure there are no major headaches for travellers this holiday season–and beyond–at Pearson or any other airports across the country.

As people returned to air travel in huge and unexpected numbers this past summer after COVID-19 restrictions were eased and eliminated, Pearson and other airports across Canada and the globe were caught off guard.

The result, more so at Pearson than nearly any other airport worldwide, was numerous delayed and cancelled flights, lengthy lineups inside terminals and lost/misplaced luggage.

“The air industry was devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and as passenger volumes increased by over 280 per cent last summer, the industry faced a new crisis of congestion and delays,” said Alghabra, who also serves as Mississauga Centre MP. “We came together over the summer to address those challenges and again (Thursday) to discuss important lessons learned and the way forward in advance of the busy holiday travel season. From advancing digital technologies to enhancing passenger rights, we are working hard to find the right solutions for Canadian travellers—to keep air travel safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable into the future.”

Alghabra was joined by Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault and parliamentary secretary to the transport minister Annie Koutrakis in meeting with airline sector leaders.

The chaotic situations earlier this year had Pearson in the news almost daily with passenger accounts of cancelled flights, lost luggage and other issues.

Alghabra and officials with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), which operates Pearson, have said they cannot have a repeat of the situation earlier this year.

One of the matters discussed at Thursday’s summit was ensuring both airlines and airports have enough staff to handle the holiday travel season, which begins in early December and ramps up the week before Christmas.

A couple of weeks ago, some in the airline industry predicted that Pearson will once again experience chaotic times during the holiday season.

While things have settled down somewhat in more recent weeks at Canada’s busiest airport, travel industry representatives told a parliamentary committee hearing in Ottawa that flight delays and cancellations will be unavoidable this holiday season at the country’s largest airports given the continuation of labour shortage problems.

They said problems retaining pilots, air traffic controllers and other workers have still not been resolved as the busy winter air travel season approaches.

The Canadian Airports Council (CAC) was among the organizations that had a seat at the summit table on Thursday.

“Without question, COVID-19 was a challenging time for the travel and tourism sector, disrupting a global aviation superpower,” CAC officials said in a statement after the summit. “The pandemic’s impact on Canada’s airport experience should not be used to gauge the value of Canada’s airport model.

“(On Thursday), the CAC outlined several steps industry and our government partners can take to help us meet passenger expectations, evolve the airport experience,and ease pressure on airports.”

The summit brought together industry partners including airports, airlines, industry associations, labour groups, consumer rights groups, and government departments and agencies to discuss critical issues facing commercial passenger air transportation and the future of the air sector in Canada.

In October, Pearson Airport announced it was raising its prices charged to both passengers and airlines.

The GTAA said it will raise both the Airport Improvement Fee (AIF) charged to passengers and the Aeronautic Rates charged to airlines.

The hikes take effect in January and are expected to help pay for increased staffing and airport renovations.

 

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