How early do you need to be at Toronto Pearson for a flight?

Cancelled flights and hours-long waits at security and customs have become an all too common occurrence for many travellers trying to navigate Pearson International Airport in recent months.

Some of the delays are being blamed on staffing shortages at the airport while others have been attributed to some remaining COVID-19 health checks, which are slowing the processing times at customs.

Last week, Toronto Mayor John Tory called the chaos at Pearson “unacceptable” while asking stakeholders to come together and find some solutions.

Former NHL player turned podcast host Ryan Whitney also made headlines last week when his video documenting one particularly frustrating experience at the airport went viral, amassing millions of views on Twitter.

On Monday CP24 spoke with Greater Toronto Airports Authority Spokesperson Tori Gass for an update about the situation at Pearson and the outlook for the busy summer travel season.

Gass also shared the latest advice on when to arrive at the airport if you have a departing flight.

Here is what she had to stay:

Has the federal government’s move to temporarily scrap random COVID-19 testing for arriving passengers helped?

Well this past weekend was the first one with this change, the pause to the random testing. So we’ve only had a couple of days to gauge it by but we did see some improvement, there was some better flow for international arrivals, which is where we’ve really been seeing some bottlenecks piling up – passengers have been spending time waiting on planes and then going through customs. So we can say that it has made a little bit of improvement.

We’ve seen some staffing added as well. So things are looking up and we’re looking positive towards the summer season, which is going to really heat up in the next couple of weeks and that’s going to be the test.

How early do you need to get to the airport amid all these delays?

We’re still sticking with the same advice to passengers (issued earlier this spring) so if you’re traveling domestically within Canada please arrive two hours ahead of your flight and if you’re flying international that’s three hours.

Now, the wait times are going to vary throughout the day. That just depends on flight schedules. There are some peak times when we’ve got more flights coming and going. But generally that is the advice to passengers.

We will also say that you know when you are departing, please be ready to go through security. There’s lots of tips that CATSA has on what can go into a carry-on and that’s something that you can do to kind of speed your way up and when you’re landing here, if you’re coming from somewhere international, you need to really be getting that ArriveCAN app. The ArriveCAN app is the next thing that we think we need to tackle, the government agrees with us that there’s health checks involved on that that we need to be streamlining and that can help speed up the bottleneck for passengers.

What about the hundreds of additional CATSA screening officers that have been hired? Has that helped?

We do know that there has been added staffing. We’re starting to see that on the grounds here. We are seeing improvements both for departures and a little bit with arrivals. Like we said, this past weekend there has been a bit of improvement. So, we are optimistic but more needs to be done.

We know we need to make more changes so that we can be ready for this influx of summer travelers that we’re really going to be seeing. So, right now, it’s starting to get busy but really when school lets out that’s when some of the summer travel is really going to peak and we have got to be prepared for that, there’s more than has to be done.

We’re looking towards the government to make more changes but we are working together and we’re confident that things are going to be a little bit better for passengers in the coming weeks.

Do you think the airport has suffered some reputational damage?

Well, we don’t like to see these things either. So, when we’re hearing these words coming from other politicians and from passengers, whether it’s Ryan Whitney or any other passengers, it’s not something that we want to be seeing and I will say that our staff are here on the ground, we’re seeing this firsthand as well.

So, it’s not something that we like to see, it’s not an experience that we want our passengers to have, we want to be able to get them moving smoothly. It is just that with the restart of travel there were some issues with staffing and there were these health checks still involved. So, it’s not easy to be coming to Pearson every day and seeing this but we know that our staff here are rallying. We know that the experience hasn’t been smooth and we’re really hopeful that with the steps that the government is taki

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