The federal government “must act quickly” to address issues causing long wait times and delays at Canada’s airports, Mississauga officials and the operator of Toronto Pearson said Monday.
Mississauga’s political and business leaders made the calls for change as Tourism Week kicks off in Canada.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, as well as representatives from the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (the operator of Pearson), Tourism Mississauga, and the Mississauga Board of Trade, said more must be done to ensure travellers are not facing long delays.
“From staffing shortages to onerous pandemic policies, the federal government must act quickly to address issues plaguing airports,” a statement said following a morning press conference from the officials.
The statement said while the local leaders thank the federal government for recently announcing plans to increase the number of Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) screening officers, it will take time until that begins to alleviate pressures.
For weeks, GTAA has been calling for changes to be made.
In a joint statement published by The Canadian Press over the weekend, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino acknowledged delays ranging from security screening to baggage handling, noting the problem is not unique to Canada.
Transport Canada has created an “outbound screening committee” made up of government agencies and industry stakeholders to address bottlenecks at security checkpoints.
The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, which manages airport security screening, aims to boost the number of screening officers, with 400 more personnel in various phases of training to be deployed by the end of June, the ministers said.
“CATSA is very close to having recruited 100 per cent of their target numbers of screening officers for the summer in many airports, including Toronto Pearson International Airport and Vancouver International Airport,” their statement said.
“While more remains to be done, these efforts are paying off through declining wait times for screening.”
‘Short-term fixes can be instituted immediately’
But the officials in Mississauga said Monday that “short-term fixes can be instituted immediately” and would make a big difference for international travellers.
Those include removing mandatory random COVID-19 testing at airports, as well as the removal of “duplicate health checks and questions.”
Their statement said international passengers at Pearson Airport have been forced to wait up to three hours during peak periods, often onboard aircrafts, before heading to the customs hall.
Last week, 6,000 travellers had to wait more than an hour on planes before heading into the airport and more than half of all arriving international passengers — 112,000 people — “experienced some form of delay last week,” the statement said.
While improving over the past week with more staffing, wait times to clear security for departing passengers have also been lengthy, with longer than 60-minute waits during peak periods, the statement said.
“The last two years have been incredibly difficult for the travel and tourism industry,” GTAA board chair Doug Allingham said.
“As travel ramps-up and our airport returns to pre-pandemic volumes, the federal government must continue to act quickly and help solve the issues plaguing air travellers. The summer season is upon us and we need urgent action now. Removing random testing and duplicative health screening questions from airports are steps that can be taken immediately to smooth travel, encourage more passengers to travel to and through Canada and rally the national economy.”
The officials said delays at airports are the first impression of a country, and “run counter” to the view that Canada is a place for investment and an international destination.
“Mississauga tourism can no longer afford to be weighed down by unnecessary, obsolete pandemic policies that lag far behind our international counterparts,” said Trevor McPherson, president and CEO of the Mississauga Board of Trade.
“Left unaddressed in the immediate term, the frustration travellers are experiencing will have detrimental and long-lasting impacts on Mississauga’s tourism industry and Canada’s reputation internationally.”
Global News has reached out to Transport Canada for an updated comment.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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