Travellers voice concerns about crowding at Toronto Pearson International Airport
TORONTO -- As air travel slowly ramps up again with COVID-19 restrictions easing, some travellers are expressing concern after arriving at Pearson International Airport describing overcrowding and chaotic scenes.
Shawn Stewart arrived from London, England on July 25 and described the crowding while in customs as “a manic situation.”
“There were no members of staff giving any indication of when people should move forward … and everybody was self-regulating and that just resulted in a huge among of overflow,” Stewart told CTV News Toronto.
He posted a video to Twitter showing hundreds of people, in many cases, who were not able to physically distance while waiting for their turn to be processed in customs.
“It felt like it hadn’t been logistically planned out by the airport managing large groups of people,” he said.
Angela Mauro of Hamilton said she had a similar experience after arriving from the Dominican Republic.
“A lot of the check-in kiosks were closed to promote social distancing, but we were crammed like a mosh pit – I just thought we’re going to catch COVID-19 here,” Mauro said. “I think they have been a bit more proactive instead of reactive.”
Several travellers posted photos of the crowds on social media describing the scene as chaotic.
Katie Zeppieri said she missed her flight to Los Angeles Sunday night due to the large crowd trying to get processed through U.S. customs.
“When I arrived at the U.S. customs section there was an incredibly long line. I’m talking hundreds of people waiting and three staff taking people one at a time,” Zeppieri told CTV News Toronto. “The worse part of the chaotic experience, there was no communication, it was completely understaffed.”
Zeppieri said the wait took was three hours long and there was no physical distancing.
“I was very much concerned about safety and the COVID-19 atmosphere,” she said.
The Greater Toronto Airports Authority says there are a variety of factors that impact wait times upon arrival, including additional health screening due to government travel requirements, vaccination status, immigration processing, multiple flights arriving at the same time and more.
The GTAA says signage and decals have been placed throughout the airport to remind passengers and employees to maintain a safe physical distance whenever possible and staff will continue to enforce this policy where applicable.
“Due to new government travel requirements, the international arrivals process is different from the pre-COVID experience and may take longer than passengers are used to due to additional screening and health checks,” said Beverly MacDonald, the senior advisor of communications with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority.
As for the crowding concerns, the GTAA says when physical distancing of 2 metres is not possible, Public Health Agency of Canada guidance clearly states that distancing is not required where an airport is using a layered approach with multiple protective measures.
“Toronto Pearson’s Healthy Airport program employs such a layered approach that includes enhanced cleaning, mask-wearing, HVAC enhancements and much more to ensure a healthy airport experience,” MacDonald said.
This week Pearson Airport has reversed its decision to separate arriving international passengers based on their vaccination status.
“Due to new restrictions, the arrivals process could take three hours or longer, depending on a passenger’s specific set of circumstances or passenger volumes in the terminals. These times may continue to change and we will do our best to provide passengers with the most up to date information at the time of travel,” MacDonald said.
Incoming travelers must still have a valid negative pre-departure test, wear masks at airports on onboard flights, as well as upload relevant vaccine credential documents on the ArriveCAN app or website.
CTV News Toronto asked the Office of the Minister of Transport if there are plans to mitigate overcrowding as air travel resumes. In response a spokesperson said, “airport and airline workers are ensuring these measures are being upheld.”
“We will continue working with industry so that travel is streamlined for passengers and measures are respected to keep travellers and workers safe, ” a spokesperson said in a statement to CTV News Toronto