‘Far from the finish line’: 44% of flights from Pearson airport left on time last week

One week after Toronto’s Pearson International Airport earned the title of world’s worst airport for flight delays, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) says the travel hub is taking steps to rehabilitate its reputation.

During the first week of August, 44 per cent of flights departed on time, according to the GTAA. That’s up from an average of 35 per cent of flights that left on time weekly in July.

Flight delays were so bad last month — 57 per cent of all departures between June 1 and July 24 were delayed — that Pearson earned attention in major international publications, including The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, and the BBC.

But August is showing some improvement. In the past week, 82 per cent of passengers managed to get through security in less than 15 minutes, per Canadian Air Transport Security Authority data — an improvement of one per cent from July.

Greater Toronto Airports Authority president and CEO Deborah Flint provides a progress update of Pearson airport in Toronto on Friday. (Carlos Osorio/CBC)

While that’s a move in the right direction, passengers shouldn’t expect a quick return to the status quo, GTAA president and CEO Deborah Flint told reporters on Friday.

“We are on a path to restore predictability and reliability to air travel,” Flint said, but, “We are indeed far from the finish line.”

WATCH | Toronto’s Pearson International Airport was ranked the world’s worst airport for flight delays:

Toronto’s Pearson ranked worst airport in the world for delays

Toronto’s Pearson International Airport was ranked the world’s worst airport for flight delays. Amid travel chaos, travellers continue to share complaints on social media while tourism groups fear this publicity may affect travel to Canada.

Canada’s busiest airport took a hit to its reputation this summer as travelling ramped up for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. Social media was awash with disgruntled passengers sharing their experiences, with one person going so far as to call the airport “a special circle of hell.”

The airport responded with new digital tools designed to curb wait times. Currently, travellers can fill out customs forms online up to 72 hours before their departure instead of queuing at machines in the terminal. They can also access live security wait times on the GTAA’s website. 

Flint noted that the first week of August saw improvements in other areas of airport operations as well. 

Passengers on 19 flights were kept from disembarking on time because of a lack of space in the customs’ hall in the last week, down from an average of 60 flights per week throughout July.

The average wait time to pick up luggage dropped by three minutes for both domestic and international flights.

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Travellers continue to battle long wait times, delays and flight cancellations as they try to travel by plane this summer. Those challenges prompted Air Canada to cancel flights throughout the summer. For Jenn MacDougall, that meant she had to sleep on the floor of the airport. Now she tells guest host Rosemary Barton that she’s calling for action; travel expert Scott Keyes discusses how people can be best prepared; and Monette Pasher, president of the Canadian Airports Council, says global travel likely won’t get better anytime soon.

Flint said that at some point in the “near future,” passengers will be able to reserve their spot in security lineups before they’ve arrived at the airport.

While she wouldn’t commit to any specific wait time targets, Flint said she was confident the airport would recover.

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