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'Like watching a house burn': Canadians react to government messaging on airport delays

Transport Canada said it is "monitoring" the situation and unveiled some steps it has taken.
The ArriveCAN process has been streamlined for travellers arriving at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and at YYZ airport in Toronto in 2022.

Travellers are expressing frustration about government messaging regarding the handling of airport congestion in Canada. 

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra took to Twitter on Sunday (July 24) to share information about how the federal government plans to combat serious airport delays across the country. 

"We are monitoring the delays and congestion in Canada’s major airports and continue to work with our partners to implement solutions that are yielding positive results," he said.

The tweet also linked to a news release about government progress on reducing traveller wait times at Canadian airports.

But many locals are livid after flight delays caused travel chaos at major airports across Canada. Further, they say the government isn't doing enough to rectify the issue. 

Many Canadians found the use of the word "monitoring" problematic, noting that the government should work a little less on observing the situation and focus on solving the congestion. 

"Hmm "monitoring?" I'm monitoring. The media monitors. If only there was somebody out there who's job it was to "fix" problems," one person tweeted.

Paul Henderson echoed this sentiment: "At least you’re monitoring it now. That’s progress for your department. Maybe soon you can actually do something."

Another local mentioned that it is "Like watching a house burn. I’m just gonna stand here and monitor the situation. I could call the FD but we actually want the fire to burn longer."

One person suggested that the government should "drop the useless ArriveCan app!" while Brad Rempel said the government should "end all mandates" as directed by several tourism associations and airlines.

"This may not be a silver bullet, but the airline industry has said it will help significantly reduce the congestion. Why won’t you listen to them? What are the mandates and the app accomplishing?" he said.

David William shared an image of flights at a Quebec airport that shows nearly every one of them is delayed. 

Another individual joked that the messaging remains the same every day without any change.

How the Government of Canada is managing the worst airports for delays

From July 11 to 21, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) screened 81 percent of passengers within 15 minutes at Canada’s airports. 

According to Transport Canada, passenger security screening wait times were reduced by four per cent in the reporting period from July 18 to 21 over the previous one (July 11 to 17) at three out of four major airports across the country: Vancouver, Toronto, and Calgary. However, wait times increased in Montreal during this period. 

Under two per cent of travellers at Canadian airports waited for longer than 45 minutes to clear security during the reporting period from July 11 to 17. During this period, air passenger arrivals also increased by 17,526 travellers and departures by 7,410.

Last week, Canada moved its random COVID-19 testing program from airports to off-site pharmacies and virtual self-testing appointments. The government notes that doing so allows it to respond to "variants of concern, or changes to the epidemiological situation, while helping alleviate congestion issues in airports."

The program had been on pause since June 11 to ease airport congestion. 

Transport Canada added that significant progress has been made to address aircraft being held on the tarmac at Canada's largest airport, Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Airport (YYZ). For the week of July 11-17, 58 aircraft were held on the tarmac as compared to the peak of 373 the week of May 23- 29.

Since April, over 1,500 CATSA screening officers have been hired across Canada and the agency is making officers more available at the most congested airports.

Finally, the ArriveCAN process has been streamlined for travellers arriving at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and at YYZ in Toronto by using the new "Advance CBSA Declaration" optional feature.

In a statement to Vancouver Is Awesome, the Office of the Minister of Transport said the government is taking delays at airports "seriously" and will continue to work with its partners to ensure a streamlined process for travellers. 

"To date, more than 1,500 CATSA screening officers have been hired across the country. As noted in our recent statement, though delays certainly remain, the average wait-time for passengers is improving, for example between July 21-25, with 81 [per cent] of travellers screened in less than 15 minutes at Vancouver International Airport.

"We will continue engagement with airports and airlines to ensure bottlenecks at every point of the passenger journey continue to be addressed.”