Will it be enough? Federal govt. has a plan to alleviate airport delays ahead of busy summer season

Someone suggested cancelling flights? Tensions run high as airport delays persist

TORONTO — Reports that Canada’s airlines were asked to ramp down their schedules amid unprecedented lineups and delays at Canada’s biggest airports are adding tension to an already high-stakes situation.

In a tweet posted yesterday, Duncan Dee, a former chief operating officer at Air Canada, said, “Have just been informed that airlines have been asked to reduce their schedules (ie cancel flights) to assist w/ the Fed Gov-created mess at the airport.”

In the second half of the tweet, he adds: “The Fed Gov has completely lost the plot. The solution to the chaos at Canada’s airports isn’t to force Canadians to cancel their long awaited travel plans. While countries around the world race to reopen their travel & tourism markets, Canada is looking to shut it down?”

 

CTV’s Evan Solomon then tweeted that Pearson Airport (i.e. the GTAA) floated the idea of cancelling flights to ease the bottlenecks, but that Transport Canada “rejected the idea quickly”.

Later Dee posted: “With the mess at the airports and also at the passport offices, the lack of preparation by the Gov of Canada has become glaring. Canadians pay the price. Is this lack of preparation because the Fed Gov never intended Canada to re-open or is it solely due to incompetence?”

Dee along with Ambarish Chandra, a professor at U of T’s Rotman School of Management focused on the airline industry, co-wrote an op-ed that ran in The Globe and Mail earlier this week, ‘Why the return of travel in Canada now feels up in the air’. The chaos at Canada’s airports is happening even as passenger volumes are still down from pre-pandemic levels, they note in the op-ed, 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.

The two also questioned “whether the continued use of vaccine mandates for travel and the ArriveCAN app is achieving much more than an added layer of bureaucracy.”

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra also posted a tweet yesterday: “I know that Canadians are experiencing long lines at airports – we’re working closely with CATSA & partners to address this. Rumours that we have asked airlines to cut back on flights are not true. Our partners and travellers can rest assured that we’re working hard to make sure the travel industry continues to bounce back.”

PASSPORT DELAYS

Meanwhile a new statement from Service Canada outlines the way it is working to maintain the flow of passports processed amid a sharp uptick in demand from Canadian travellers.

Service Canada has reopened all of its passport service counters across the country, marking a return to pre-pandemic in-person service capacity, with a 40% increase in capacity at service counters. Capacity in waiting rooms has also been expanded.

Service Canada also says it has hired 600 new employees specifically to support the processing of passport applications, opened more dedicated passport intake counters in over 300 Service Canada Centres and opened additional processing hubs.

Service Canada teams at the passport office, processing and call centres are working overtime every day and on weekends to increase processing capacity. This includes opening select Service Canada Centres on Saturdays for passport service.

A simplified renewal process, announced in April 2022, now allows applicants to renew an expired passport if it was issued in the last 15 years. The simplified process is also available to those who had their passport lost, stolen or damaged.

Service Canada has also launched eservices.canada.ca/reservation/, an online appointment booking tool.

Service Canada says it recognizes that some circumstances cannot wait for an appointment, and offers the following suggestions …

  • Anyone who needs a passport within two business days must visit one of the specialized passport sites (Service Canada Centres – Passport Service) offering urgent pick-up service. Proof of travel is required.
  • Those travelling within 25 business days can use the walk-in service at one of the 35 specialized passport sites (Service Canada Centres – Passport Service). “Appointments are recommended, and proof of travel is required. Please note that wait times at these sites may be long due to the current demand.”
  • For anyone travelling in more than 25 days (or with no specific travel date), over 300 Service Canada Centres are available to receive passport applications in person. No proof of travel is needed. These applicants also have the option to mail in their applications.

Service Canada adds: “Although processing times are currently longer than prior to the pandemic, 98% of Canadians who apply in-person at a specialized passport office currently receive their passports in less than 10 business days. In March and April 2022, Service Canada received approximately 500,000 applications for passports, and is therefore prioritizing those with more imminent travel.”