House of Commons transport committee to investigate airport delays


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OTTAWA — The House of Commons transport committee is launching an investigation into airport delays and flight cancellations.

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The committee met virtually on Monday and voted unanimously to move forward with a study into the delays.

The commission will invite Transport Minister Omar Alghabra to testify and hold its first hearing by the end of next week.

Airlines and airports have grappled with an increase in travel this summer, compounded by staffing shortages affecting both carriers and federal agencies.

This has led to widespread flight cancellations, baggage delays and long lines, with the Greater Toronto Area’s Pearson International Airport being the hardest hit by these issues.

John Gradek, director of McGill University’s aviation management program, said airlines have aggressively increased their flight schedules as travel resumes, but have been unaware of their own labor shortages.

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Airlines laid off workers at the start of the pandemic and struggled to rehire enough workers in the industry.

“Airlines have launched a whole series of very aggressive flights and schedules to capture as much of this traffic as possible and without really understanding what the impact would be on the ability of aviation infrastructure and ecosystems to handle all that traffic,” Gradek said.

Gradek said airports are also responsible for the delays because they have not limited the number of flights to match their capacities. Part of the problem, he said, is that they don’t have the power to order airlines to reduce flight volumes.

Last week, the head of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority said delays at Canada’s busiest travel hub were down, but did not make specific commitments or timelines to improve times. journey in the future.

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Other airports around the world have ordered airlines to reduce their flights. Britain’s Heathrow Airport has ordered airlines to stop selling tickets for summer flights as it imposes a cap on the number of passengers per day.

« Airlines don’t want to cut schedules, because if you cut schedules, you cut your market share, » Gradek said.

He said he would pay close attention to any solutions put forward by the transport committee to ensure that the next time the country faces a crisis, disruption to airports will be limited.

Amicable efforts to resolve the issue aren’t working, so « we need some authority, » he said.

Air Canada announced in June that it would cut its July and August schedule by more than 15%, or more than 9,500 flights, due to a strained air transport system. Meanwhile, WestJet said it had “proactively” removed flights from its Pearson schedule, anticipating summer travel grunts.

Transport Canada said the government and the aviation industry are working together to improve travel, including meeting with stakeholders, increasing staff and improving the ArriveCan app.

Air Canada is also facing heat for denying compensation claims to passengers whose flight cancellations or delays are caused by staff shortages resulting from the pandemic.


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