Friday,  September 29, 2023  12:47 pm

A “chaotic conga line”: Travellers face delays as YYZ grapples with staffing shortage

A “chaotic conga line”: Travellers face delays as YYZ grapples with staffing shortage
A glimpse at the "absolute gong show" that unfolded at Toronto Pearson's security check on Monday. (Twitter/@MatthewGreenNDP)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Travelling through Toronto Pearson International Airport? Pack your patience, as the saying goes. 

Media reports on Monday (May 2) painted a chaotic picture of YYZ as thousands of passengers faced extreme crowding and longer-than-expected security lines due to ongoing staffing issues at the facility. 

As reported by CBC News, Matthew Green, NDP MP for Hamilton Centre, reached Pearson about 90 minutes before his 8:10 a.m. domestic flight to Ottawa yesterday.

Green said he saw some 500 people lined up in the airport outside of the gate, in what he described as a "disorganized, chaotic conga line."


The wait times at Pearson were apparently so bad that the CEO of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) apologized to travellers in a statement later that day.

“CATSA is currently experiencing the pent-up demand for air travel occasioned by the pandemic,” wrote CEO Mike Saunders. “This follows two tumultuous years that resulted in a significant number of layoffs throughout the aviation industry, including the security-screening workforce.”

The CEO added that while the corporation's third-party security contractors (who are responsible for providing the screening officer workforce) have been working to increase staffing levels, “they are not immune to the recruitment challenges experienced by the broader commercial aviation industry and, indeed, many industries across Canada at this time.”

He said the CATSA has been “actively supporting them” as additional measures are taken to recruit, train and certify new screening staff.

Arrive extra early

In the meantime, as staffing levels ramp up, the CATSA is strongly advising passengers arrive at the airport “well in advance of their flights” – two hours for domestic and three hours for U.S. and international destinations.

“As CATSA works aggressively to address wait times for security at Canadian airports, it again apologizes for the inconvenience this brings to air travellers, and asks that passengers show patience and understanding with screening personnel, who are doing their best to move air travellers through the screening process as quickly as possible while ensuring their safety and security,” Saunders wrote.

(Pax Global Media)

Excessive waiting times aren’t limited to Toronto Pearson – long delays have also plagued Vancouver International Airport’s screening stations as well, according to reports.

Speaking to media in Ottawa on Monday (May 2), Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra sympathized with travellers facing delays as Canada 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," Alghabra said. "Now we're learning once you turn off the economy, when you turn it back on it comes with imbalances."

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