CTA says total air travel complaints up last year on increased backlog

Calls getting louder for feds to fix the debacle at Canada’s biggest airports

TORONTO — Calls are getting louder for the Canadian government to fix the debacle at Canada’s biggest airports, as delays continue to negatively impact inbound and outbound passenger flow and drag down travel’s much-needed recovery.

After CATSA blamed staffing shortages for the hours-long delays, and the GTAA blamed legacy public health requirements (including randomized COVID-19 testing), tourism officials, Toronto business leaders and industry representatives including ACTA President Wendy Paradis voiced their concerns at last week’s ‘Unlock the Summer’ press conference.

“These long delays at government checkpoints represent a significant hurdle,” said Paradis, adding that ACTA has “received reports of travellers cancelling their reservations or deferring travel because of these delays, creating a further obstacle to recovery.”

“IN DIRE SHAPE”

A new opinion piece in The Globe and Mail written by an economics professor at the University of Toronto and a former Air Canada executive added more voices to the fray today.

Duncan Dee is a former Chief Operating Officer at Air Canada, and Ambarish Chandra is a professor at U of T’s Rotman School of Management, focused on the airline industry.

Their op-ed in the Globe notes that the chaos at Canada’s airports is happening even as passenger volumes are still down from pre-pandemic levels, and that’s especially concerning considering that the summer peak travel season hasn’t even started yet.

They cite the same mitigating factors as CATSA, the GTAA and business leaders and industry representatives: staffing shortages; protocols for inbound travellers including random testing, vaccination checks and use of the ArriveCAN app; and long lineups at security checkpoints for outbound travellers.

“But the resumption of air travel did not cause these queues: Canada’s preboarding screening system was in dire shape well before the pandemic,” say Chandra and Dee.

The two also question “whether the continued use of vaccine mandates for travel and the ArriveCAN app is achieving much more than an added layer of bureaucracy.” They point to other systems like the TSA’s process in the U.S. that are working better, and note that the federal government has been slow to keep up with travel strategies in other parts of the world throughout the pandemic.

The upshot? “Canada’s tourism-dependent cannot afford a third consecutive lost summer, especially for self-inflicted reasons. The Government of Canada still has a chance to save the summer travel peak – but it must act quickly, and end its stubbornness.”

While their call-to-action focuses on inbound travel, travel advisors, tour ops and every other sector of this industry selling outbound travel have livelihoods riding on the outcome as well.

PASSPORT DELAYS AN ONGOING HEADACHE

Meanwhile passport delays are still an ongoing problem as well, and that’s directly impacting travel sellers for outbound travel.

CTV reports that Service Canada, which normally handles 5,000 calls a day, is now getting as many as 200,000 calls a day. Close to a million more passports than usual are now in the system waiting to be processed.