What do you get when you get over a labor shortage with a severe thunderstorm and pent-up travel demand over a long weekend in May?
At Toronto Pearson Airport, at least, it can be a long wait or even a flight cancellation. And while the thunderstorm may be over, air travelers may experience more such delays in the coming months.
This is what happened to many travelers during the long Victoria Day weekend. Pictures and videos posted on social media show airport halls filled with masked travelers, baggage carousels flanked and stacked with tall suitcases, and long, winding lines.
While some travelers have been more fortunate – posting pictures of nearly empty airports – it’s clear that the chaos at airports won’t go away as the summer months approach. Catherine Cosgrove of Teamsters Canada, which represents about 1,000 GardaWorld screening workers across the country, said delays at the airport will remain in the long run due to a shortage of workers in airport security.
“We envision the delay continuing through the summer, fall and even until next Christmas,” she said in an emailed statement.
Delays at airports were already a problem, in large part due to a combination of labor shortages in the security sector and an unexpected influx of travelers.
Unions representing airport security workers have pointed the finger at the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), which contracts with outside companies such as Allied Universal and Garda World. Unions say the agency is understaffed and workers are underpaid and overworked.
They said the agency appeared unprepared for pent-up demand for travel as restrictions on the outbreak were lifted.
The airport authority responsible for Toronto’s Pearson Airport said plans for a long weekend and a thunderstorm made these problems more acute.
Labor shortages and extensive COVID-19 requirements are to blame for persistent challenges at airports, exacerbated by the storm and delays in flights and baggage, said Ryan White, a spokesperson for the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA).
10 percent of arrivals and departures to and from Pearson have been canceled due to the weather, White said in an email on Saturday.
“Over the next few weeks as passenger volume continues to increase, there is an urgent need to effectively manage passenger loads and enable recovery in Toronto Pearson,” he said.
Katsa spokeswoman Susan Perso said the longest wait times at Pearson this weekend were on Saturday.
“Last Saturday during a busy morning, we had wait times of up to 60 minutes at the peak,” Birsu said in an email, adding that for the rest of the long weekend, security screening wait times were less than half an hour at the peak. .
A spokesman for the Office of the Minister of Transport, Omar Al-Ghubra, said that the storm affected the travel of airline passengers, increasing delays and formations caused by the lack of security personnel.
“Katsa It recently recruited 400 new examination officers who are going through various stages of training. We continue to work closely with CATSA, CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) and air sector partners to support the industry while increasing the level of travel.”
Airports are complex ecosystems made up of a lot of moving parts, and there are multiple factors that lead to delays for both arriving and departing passengers, said Monette Bacher, interim chair of the Airports Council of Canada (CAC).
For departing passengers, the shortage of security workers is the main problem, she said, while for international travelers, COVID-19 protocols are taking two to four times longer than they would otherwise.
Bacher said, Montreal Airport had wait times of up to two hours to arrive for international passengers on Sunday because of this. She said there were similar delays in Toronto.
“We are really pressing the government to act quickly and urgently to save the summer travel season,” she said, adding that the airport board is recommending that these public health protocols be lifted to help avoid further delays.
Dave Flowers, president of Area 140 at the International Federation of Mechanics and Space Workers, which represents about 4,000 airport security workers in British Columbia and Ontario, previously told that while hiring increases, turnover makes it difficult to deal with a staffing shortage.
“The increased passenger loads have made working conditions more difficult,” he wrote in an email on Tuesday, adding that union members were “pushed over the edge.”
Any event that adds stress to the system, such as a storm or a long weekend — or both — will “wreak more havoc on an environment already lumped together at the seams with Band-Aid solutions,” Cosgrove said.
Events Over the weekend, it stepped up advocacy for CATSA, the federal government and outside contractors to address the problems behind the delays, White said.
Refer GardaWorld to CATSA for feedback about the long weekend.
GardaWorld previously told The Star that the pandemic has led to absenteeism and understaffing, and that the company is doing everything it can to hire and train new workers.
Training an airport security worker is no small feat – the job requires weeks of training as well as a security clearance that can take months to receive, meaning the shortfall cannot be resolved overnight.
“In an already constrained workforce… positions with CATSA are critical security positions with stringent requirements, making the pool of qualified applicants available even smaller. Furthermore, new officers go through several weeks of testing and specialized training before they can work because this is a role important in the area of safety,” Allied Universal spokeswoman Cherita Kovelt said in an email to Star last week.
However, Covelt said on Tuesday that the long weekend had not brought any significant wait times at Vancouver’s airport, and that Allied Universal was “working hard” to increase staffing levels. She added that the company has added more than 100 new employees in the past three weeks.
Airlines have expressed concern about ongoing delays as interest in travel continues to increase with the warmer months ahead.
WestJet spokesman Madison Krueger said WestJet carried more than 55,500 guests on 534 flights on Friday alone, the highest single-day flight total so far in 2022. But despite the uptick in business, not all was smooth sailing.
“While a significant weather event in Ontario added to this weekend’s cancellations, we continued to face unacceptable challenges and remain deeply concerned about the state of services provided by government agencies at our air borders and security checkpoints,” Krueger said in an emailed statement. “. . “This is an urgent issue that requires immediate improvement and we remain focused on resolving the issue directly with the federal government, while working collaboratively with our airport partners.”
Air Canada did not respond to Star’s request for comment on Tuesday.
CATSA encourages travelers to arrive at the airport two hours earlier for domestic flights and three hours for US and international flights.
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