Rusty travellers, uneven flight volumes slowing airport security lines: Minister – Waterloo Region Record

Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra speaks to reporters as he arrives for a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. Alghabra says the unacceptable delays at airport security in Canadian airports can't be mostly blamed on a labour shortage.

By The Canadian Press

Wed., May 11, 20221 min. read

Article was updated 1 hr ago

OTTAWA – Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says Canada’s airport security agency is increasing its staffing, but that a lack of workers is not the main culprit for the unacceptable delays passengers are facing this spring.

Multiple airports are reporting extremely long lines at airport security and border screening checkpoints while passengers say they are being forced to wait for hours — and sometimes missing their flights.

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority said last week that staffing challenges at the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority were contributing to long lines at Toronto’s Pearson Airport.

But Alghabra said Wednesday that CATSA staffing is at 90 per cent of pre-pandemic levels while flight volumes are still below 70 per cent, so that can’t be the main problem.

Rather, he said out-of-practice travellers are causing delays at security checkpoints as Canadians shift back into travel mode after spending most of the last two years grounded by COVID-19.

“Taking out the laptops, taking out the fluids — all that adds 10 seconds here, 15 seconds there,” Alghabra told reporters.

He said changing flight schedules have also resulted in large volumes of flights leaving and arriving at the same time, causing big bottlenecks at certain times of day.

“They need to adjust for that… It wasn’t as pronounced as it is right now, the peaks and valleys.”

More last-minute booking habits by passengers could throw another wrench in the turbine.

“CATSA used to rely on a six-month forecast when it comes to labour allocation. Now they need to rely on a 72-hour, 48-hour volume prediction. They’re adjusting,” Alghabra said.

“I’m confident the CEO understands the sense of urgency. I reinforced the sense of urgency to him on Monday.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2022.