Don Martin: Fly united to demand the government withdraw its COVID checks


Incredibly, the current Pearson passenger chaos could be a calm before the perfect storm hits Canada’s biggest airport in just three weeks.

Toronto’s Pearson International Airport crash is set to face the worst passenger shortage of the year, the dreaded Canada Day start of the summer rush when an army of families with strollers and unaccompanied minors will exacerbate overcrowding.

Do you think those hours of waiting on planes before customs can process disembarked passengers are bad now?

Without immediate help from the government, they will stretch out and join chronic late departures and a staggering number of canceled Air Canada flights to make the summer flying season even more miserable, if at all possible.

It’s all part of a frustrating chain reaction that stretches from the check-in counter and security screening for outbound passengers to the customs office for air-trapped arrivals, all set in motion by unnecessary federal obstructionist actions exacerbated by staff shortages hitting every part of airport operations.


“The minister blamed out-of-practice travelers in May. Well, he hasn’t seen anything yet,” former Air Canada executive Duncan Dee told me on Thursday. « July 1 will be a zoo unless the Minister finds out in the next two weeks. »

There is an unusual agreement on what should be done with airports, airlines, the tourism sector, Canadian businesses and the mayor of Toronto all united in demanding that the federal government drop measures that limit the influx of passengers.

But all that is lost on Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, who seems 30,000 feet above his head figuring out how to get planes off the ground in a timely manner and unload them in less time than past passengers in the air.

The minister was seeking oxygen on potential resolutions en route to a caucus meeting this week, only to emerge hours later to declare salvation was at hand with the snap hiring of more than 800 warm corps to ensure the safety of staff and border offices.

Now, apart from the fact that these people need training before they can handle the tough stuff or that the new recruits will replace those on summer vacation, there is a delay of several months in issuing the security clearances, Dee told me. That suggests real relief from the hiring spree won’t be in place until the travel wave subsides on Labor Day.

It comes as union officials privately worry about a possible wave of sick calls or resignations from stressed employees who are not earning enough to endure the daily abuse of weary passengers.

After all, the job of an airport security screening officer, for those whose idea of ​​a dream career is having their shoes removed or rummaging through carry-on luggage for a pair of pliers. wax or a tube of hand gel that is not in an approved plastic bag, starts at $22.28 per hour. If you really want the work experience of seeing the worst in humanity up close, you can staff at the check-in counter to deal with belligerent fed-up passengers starting at $21 an hour.

There’s no easy one-step solution, of course, but officials I’ve spoken to believe that eliminating those pesky requirements from the Public Health Agency of Canada is a big step in direction of the release of traffic jams.


The ArriveCan proof of vaccination app is unnecessarily bureaucratic when 90% of the population has been vaccinated or contracted the virus. Random testing is pointless, given that the 240,000 inbound airline passengers tested over the past two months have yielded a 3% positivity rate, less than half the overall positivity rate of 8.2% in the Canada.

Only masking has lingering value, but that should be reduced to voluntary encouragement because, after all, what good is rabid repression if the person sitting next to you takes off their mask to eat and drink?

Until that happens, many travelers passing through Toronto will continue to have horror stories at the airport – which gives me an excuse to share mine.

I came back from overseas to face an hour long queue to reach the arrival terminals in Toronto, another 30 minute queue for a customs officer to send me to “triage” for another COVID questioning followed by another round of questioning at immigration culminating in a random COVID-19 trial. Elapsed time: 2.5 hours – and that was before I joined a parade of passengers forced out of the secure area and back through security just in time to miss a connecting flight to Ottawa. Phew. Glad it’s off my chest.

Former NHL player Ryan Whitney – the man behind the famous grapefruit vodka drink Pink Whitney – has done Canadian passengers a favor by filming Toronto airport in a globally watched viral video.

It not only gave passengers a rallying cry and media attention, but also reminded travel agents around the world to avoid sending customers via Toronto where they will almost certainly miss their connections.

This pandemic has given the federal government two years of bureaucratizing Canadians to an unacceptable excess – and the traveling public has been hardest hit.

We were told that all these pandemic measures were for our good. Those who challenged the rules were seen as privileged whiners.

Well, it’s time for the whiners to win and the government to reopen the skies, a throwback to those glorious days of flight when the biggest complaints were expensive parking, a middle seat and expired pretzels.

This is the bottom line.


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