Majority of Canadians concerned about ongoing airport issues: Poll

An aviation expert says airline practices will keep lines long and flights delayed at the country’s busiest airports, even after Air Canada trimmed its summer schedule. But as Caryn Ceolin reports, there are some signs of relief.

More than half of Canadian respondents to a recent survey say they are concerned about the state of airport travel in the country.

The new poll by Leger shows 53 per cent of people who did the survey were worried about flight cancellations, delays, and long lineups, that have persisted into the summer travel season.

There seems to be general agreement across North America about what the problem is, with most Canadian and American respondents saying they think staffing shortages are to blame. However, only 18 per cent of Canadians said the travel issues are causing them to significantly alter their summer vacation plans.

“I think to be really sort of seized by that issue, you have to either have a trip coming up and probably also need to be looking at your passport expiration date,” said Leger vice-president Andrew Enns.

Leger airport poll

According to the poll, 57 per cent of Canadians plan to travel within their province this summer and 28 per cent have plans to travel to other parts of Canada. For international trips, 16 per cent say the intend to travel to the United States with one in five respondents planning on making trips overseas.

Only three per cent of respondents were not aware of any airport problems and only four per cent said they have no knowledge of long wait times and delays in getting passports.

The online survey was completed by 1,538 Canadians and 1,002 Americans between July 8 and 10. It cannot be assigned a margin of error because online polls are not considered truly random samples.


Pearson delays leaving passengers frustrated

The problems at Canadian airports have impacted the country’s two largest cities the most, with Toronto’s Pearson Airport and Montreal-Trudeau Airport experiencing the lion’s share of issues.

Ray Harris, who works at the analytics firm Data Wazo, has been tracking cancellations and delays at Canadian airports over the last month.

“My flight got cancelled, and I did what any normal person would do, I hired a data scraper and started pulling all the data in,” he says.

The figures from Harris show that domestic and American flights are bearing the brunt of the issues. At Pearson, 11 per cent of flights to the U.S. between July 4 and July 10 were cancelled, and 46 per cent were delayed. Half of the more than 1,500 domestic flights out of Pearson in that same timespan were delayed.

“I consider a delay anything that’s 20 minutes or more,” he says.

He notes his data suggests delays have remained stable over the past month but the numbers show improvements when it comes to cancellations, down from around 12 per cent to six per cent in the past few weeks.

According to the Leger poll, Ontarians have the most worries about airport problems compared to residents of other provinces, with 58 per cent saying they are concerned about airport issues.

Concern about the situation at airports

leger airport poll

Source: Leger

Air Canada and WestJet both announced they’re cutting back on flights this summer to help deal with the staffing problems.

Air Canada told CityNews it planned to start reducing its schedule in June, on average by 77 round trips per day in July and August, adding it used to operate 1,000 trips a day.

“These will be mostly frequency reductions, affecting primarily evening and late-night flights by smaller aircraft, on transborder and domestic routes,” reads a statement from the airline. “Our international flights are unaffected, other than a few timing changes to reduce flying at peak times.”

John Gradek, a coordinator for the International Aviation program at Montreal’s McGill University, told CityNews the problems are likely beyond salvation and will persist for months. He said major airlines knew about the potential problems and continued selling tickets.

“There’s a lot of traffic that Air Canada has deliberately designed in its schedule to attract U.S. and Europe traffic,” he says. “They knew about the staffing issues, and they still kept selling those flights.”

He advised that any Canadians travelling before the end of summer should be prepared to pack their patience.

With files from CityNews reporter Caryn Ceolin and The Canadian Press

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