GTAA CEO Claims Significant Improvements at Toronto Pearson While Flight Board Shows Majority of Flights Delayed

Toronto Pearson International Airport, which was previously ranked as the worst airport in the world for delays, claims that it has turned its performance around just in time for the busy August long weekend. The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), the operator of Pearson, reported a significant improvement in on-time performance, now ranking 17th globally, compared to being in last place during the height of the pandemic reopening.

Last summer, on-time performance at the airport was a dismal 35%. In recent weeks, it has reached an impressive 74.5%, according to FlightAware, a flight-tracking company. The GTAA attributed this success to exceptional teamwork demonstrated by the Toronto Pearson team, which has strengthened the airport’s overall resilience and customer experiences.

“This summer is of course very different than summer 2022 with its slingshot of growth of 180% in a very short period of time,” GTAA CEO Deborah Flint said at a news conference on Tuesday. “The numbers that we show today speak volumes.”

The positive changes are not limited to on-time performance alone; security wait times have also lessened. The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) reported that during the week of July 3 to 9, 91% of passengers cleared security in less than 15 minutes. Additionally, wait times for baggage retrieval have dropped from 26 minutes to 20 minutes compared to the same period last year, and passengers now experience an average customs wait time of only seven minutes.

Despite the improvements, travelers remain cautious, particularly after experiencing thousands of flight cancellations and delays over Canada Day weekend, including at Pearson. The airport is now focused on proactively notifying passengers of potential flight impacts during the busy August long weekend and offering alternative travel routes if needed.

Pearson has made significant efforts to improve its performance by hiring 10,000 new employees since last summer, resulting in 22% more staff and a total workforce of 50,000. 

The GTAA also invested in upgrading baggage-handling systems and hired 130 new staff to assist with critical areas such as busing, baggage handling, and terminal operations. Furthermore, more security and customs agents have been hired to enhance overall airport operations.

Despite these improvements, some industry experts, like John Gradek, a former Air Canada executive and head of McGill University’s Global Aviation Leadership Program, argue that the performance is still below industry standards. He told the Toronto Star that the target should be an 80% minimum on-time departure performance, and customer unrest may arise if this goal is not met.

CTV News’ reporting of the press conference actually brings to attention that a vast majority of the flights on the board above Flint were delayed, with at least four flights canceled.

Gradek attributes the poor on-time performance primarily to Air Canada, which has struggled to achieve on-time performance above 65%, with figures frequently falling in the 50% range over the past weekends. The airline, however, attributed some of the delays to severe weather conditions. 

The delayed and canceled flights on the flight board above Flint at the press conference were all from Air Canada.

Another contributing factor to the delays is the persistent labor shortages at NAV Canada, which employs air traffic controllers. Despite a recent hiring spree, it is expected to take until summer 2024 to see a positive impact on performance.

Barry Prentice, a University of Manitoba professor and travel industry analyst, also noted that the data provided may not be entirely representative of the airport’s performance during peak times or under stressful conditions.

Information for this story was found via Bloomberg, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

Leave a Reply