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Travellers facing ‘chaotic’ delays as Pearson airport navigates long lines, staffing issues

Travellers at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport are being asked to pack plenty of patience on Monday as longer than expected lineups and Canada-wide staffing shortages cause delays. 

“This is ridiculous — this is really not well organized,” said Adam Brazier, who is travelling home with his family to P.E.I. 

“A lot of people are going into the wrong lines right now because there’s nobody to tell us which lines to go into.” 

Matthew Green, the NDP MPP for Hamilton Centre, reached Pearson airport about 90 minutes before his 8:10 a.m. domestic flight to Ottawa. He says he arrived to find about 500 people lined up in the airport outside of the gate, in what he described as a “disorganized, chaotic conga line.” 

What became immediately apparent, Green says, is that the airport was “completely understaffed, unprepared, and unable to accommodate the bottleneck that was happening there.” 

Green missed his initial flight, waiting two hours before boarding a different one. 


The airport sent out a message on Twitter Monday morning, advising travellers to leave themselves lots of extra time and to check their flight status before leaving for the terminal. 

“We’d like to remind passengers that employees in the terminals are doing their best to get them on their way,” the airport said in a statement. 

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Staffing shortages, health checks causing delays

Several Canadian airports have had frustrated travellers in long lines due to a shortage of security screeners. 

Vancouver has seen particularly long waits, with passengers saying they have also missed domestic flights due to security screening delays. 

In an email to the CBC News, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) said it’s making every effort to address the issue — but it can’t find enough workers. 

CATSA, which is the federal crown corporation that’s responsible for all passenger security screening, says once it does manage to hire enough staff, it will also take time to train them. 

travellers facing chaotic delays as pearson airport navigates long lines staffing issues
Travellers at Pearson airport use electronic kiosks to check into their flights on Monday. The airport says Canada-wide staffing shortages and COVID-19-related health checks are causing delays. (Chris Langenzarde/CBC)

Pearson also says health checks to cover the increased number of travellers have doubled processing times.

Green calls it “wholly unacceptable” that the airport couldn’t have predicted delays as post-pandemic travel ramps up.

“What I’ve heard from staff is that this has been now the third day, essentially, of chaos there,” he said. 

“They knew this was happening but we received no communications from Air Canada to come earlier.”

Expect delays for next few weeks 

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa on Monday, Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra said he shares the concerns of travellers facing delays, as the country continues to see a “huge resurgence of appetite” for travel.

“I’m a traveller myself and I’ve seen lineups grow over the past few weeks,” he said.

“Now we’re learning once you turn off the economy, when you turn it back on it comes with imbalances.” 

Alghabra says Transport Canada has been working with CATSA, “ensuring that we have the adequate resources to respond to this surge of need for travelling.” 

Asked for a timeline of when these issues might be resolved, Alghabra didn’t confirm.

“I don’t think that we’ll immediately be able to resolve this,” he said, adding that it will take at least a few weeks. 

travellers facing chaotic delays as pearson airport navigates long lines staffing issues 1
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says he is working with Transport Canada and CATSA to resolve issues causing travel delays, and that travellers should start to see ‘some relief’ within the coming days. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)


Anticipating long lines and a mass influx of travellers, Manvir Jutla arrived five hours early for his 4 p.m. flight to Vancouver.

“I am not missing my flight,” he said with a laugh. 

Jen Baba isn’t quite as confident. 

“I’m a little bit stressed, we [have] a lot of luggage,” she said. “Hopefully we will not be late.” 

Karan Panchal, who is travelling to India, said he’s still unsure of when his flight is even supposed to take off.

“My boarding pass has a different time and my flight time displayed is different,” he said. 

“It definitely affected my plan.” 

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