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Toronto Pearson International Airport

Quick question - How many times does it have to be said, both in this thread, and in the news media, that the security services at Pearson, as well as other Canadian airports is provided by Canada Air Transport Security Agency - not by Pearson Airport, or the other local airport authorities?

How many times - before GTAA stops being blamed for the issues with the security process (as well as with the arrival screening processing, which is provided by the Canadian Boarder Services Agency - not by Pearson Airport / GTAA)?

If I may repeat myself - Pearson Airport management does not provide or operate either the security services at Pearson, or the arriving international passenger screening services. Both are operated by agencies of the federal government.

I agree there are issues to be resolved. But I must admit being tired of seeing GTAA management being falsely blamed, as in the above posts, for things which are not their responsibility.

And as a by-the-way. We are in now in London, having flown out of Pearson Terminal 1 last night. Fourth in line for CATSA screening, through Zone D security in 5 minutes (Zone E was more backed up, so CTSA was diverting departing passengers towards Zone D screening to balance the load), and we were at our gate three hours before departure. No problems at all with Air Canada check in, no problems with Security.
Just because someone says Pearson is a horrible airport doesn't mean they're blaming just the GTAA specifically. They're frustrated by the conglomerate of parties that are responsible for the current shi* show, hence the disdain the general public has for it the airport in general. CBSA is responsible for the same functions at YUL and YVR yet the experince at those airports is nowhere near as bad as the current travel experience at YYZ.
 
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One question would be, how does CATSA and CBSA determine their labour requirements at the airport? Surely there must be some dialogue with GTAA to determine flight volumes/times.

Clearly the airlines and airports have scheduled more flights without waiting for those agencies to staff back up to pre-pandemic levels. So you have to wonder about that.

I don't buy the argument that the COVID-19 measures are causing all the delays. I am sure they play a part but clearly there is a major labour shortage compared to prior to the pandemic. Any regular traveler can see that. The same thing is happening in Europe.


I fly a lot for work and have opposite experience to many at Pearson.
 
I don't buy the argument that the COVID-19 measures are causing all the delays. Clearly there is a major labour shortage compared to prior to the pandemic.

I somewhat agree.

I wonder if Covid forced people out of the industry due to border closures and restrictions.

The pandemic went on for so long that it would make sense for CBSA and CATSA staff to look elsewhere for work. I doubt they were working full time hours or receiving full pay with all that was going on.

If that was the case they would be in a pickle at the moment.
 
I am curious if this is at least partially a negotiating tactic by the security-screening subs. Now they can point to the bad press, the shortage of applicants and say “Look - we need to pay people more money, so you all need to pay up” (Questionable how much of the contract increase will flow through to employees)
 
I had a neighbour who was a duty manager at Pearson and he said historically, there was always poor alignment between airside operations and its 'partner' agencies. He didn't elaborate on whether it was a lack of communications or lack of responsiveness by one or more of the parties. A couple of widebodies showing up at once, particularly if one has been delayed, throws hundreds of people into the system all at once. It's not like they don't have advanced notice of their arrival, but managers worrying about scheduling, overtime, call-backs, etc. can hinder responsiveness.

I can well see staff reductions, voluntary or otherwise, within CATSA, but I would be really surprised if there were within the CBSA. Border services is much more career oriented than security guards, making upwards of $80K/yr. As well, it is a unionized shop, so even if there were layoffs, recall would be fairly codified. I doubt many would say 'nah, I found another job'.
 
Our daughter was supposed to fly into Pearson this morning for a connecting flight to the Maritimes. I think her first departure was around 0900. She got a message around midnight that her flight has been cancelled. Everything re-scheduled to tomorrow. Sigh.
 
Person today. Also, I spoken with security who are positioned in front of the bridge. If you're arriving by ups and want to connect to a connecting bus, like Brampton Transit route 115, security said you can tell them you're just taking the bus and they'll let you through. I realize that not a lot of people would do this transit journey/transfer but good to know.

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Person today. Also, I spoken with security who are positioned in front of the bridge. If you're arriving by ups and want to connect to a connecting bus, like Brampton Transit route 115, security said you can tell them you're just taking the bus and they'll let you through. I realize that not a lot of people would do this transit journey/transfer but good to know.
Ya, our daughter ended up cancelling her feeder flight into Pearson, drove to our place on Saturday and I took her down Sunday to T1 for 0800 for an 1100 departure (she was a little paranoid). It was a breeze. Dang, it's been a long time since I've been up and out at that time of day.
 
^The few folks I know who work at Pearson have observed that every contractor in the terminal has been running with barebones staff. Finding people may be a factor but the bigger issue is - for-profit businesses are incented to run understaffed, especially when it’s so easy to pass the blame on to someone else.

I haven’t seen hard numbers, but CBSA is a government agency that offers pretty good job security. I doubt that COVId caused them to lay people off in droves, certainly not to the degree that say the restaurant industry shut down.. Their workforce probably looks pretty similar to what it was before COVID when the airports were full. Maybe people are less willing to work overtime etc. I have flown internationally a couple of times since covid, and my customs transaction was not any longer… the only added step at the counter was the officer attaching a coloured sticker to my passport to indicate my vax status. A far bigger delay was the non-working self serve customs machines ….. which despite my having a Nexus card worked terribly. Frankly, baggage handling was a far bigger delay.

One has to think that this model of contracting everything out in such a granular fashion isn’t helping - it becomes a whackamole exercise to pressure each and every unit to staff to the need. I would be looking long and hard at GTAA’s organizational model. Maybe they need to bring more things in house, or contract to one super agency that can police its subs better.

- Paul
 
^The few folks I know who work at Pearson have observed that every contractor in the terminal has been running with barebones staff. Finding people may be a factor but the bigger issue is - for-profit businesses are incented to run understaffed, especially when it’s so easy to pass the blame on to someone else.

I haven’t seen hard numbers, but CBSA is a government agency that offers pretty good job security. I doubt that COVId caused them to lay people off in droves, certainly not to the degree that say the restaurant industry shut down.. Their workforce probably looks pretty similar to what it was before COVID when the airports were full. Maybe people are less willing to work overtime etc. I have flown internationally a couple of times since covid, and my customs transaction was not any longer… the only added step at the counter was the officer attaching a coloured sticker to my passport to indicate my vax status. A far bigger delay was the non-working self serve customs machines ….. which despite my having a Nexus card worked terribly. Frankly, baggage handling was a far bigger delay.

One has to think that this model of contracting everything out in such a granular fashion isn’t helping - it becomes a whackamole exercise to pressure each and every unit to staff to the need. I would be looking long and hard at GTAA’s organizational model. Maybe they need to bring more things in house, or contract to one super agency that can police its subs better.

- Paul
I think that almost all airports are organised in this silo-ish way. Individual airlines all having their own (or contracted) baggage handlers, each country running the immigration/customs staff, each airport having responsibility for pre-boarding security screening. It may not be feasible to have all this run by the airport authority but there clearly needs to be more coordination and everyone needs to realise it's not a 9-5 operation and one where weather (mainly) delays to flights will mean unexpected surges and unplanned overtime.
 
Prior to 1996 Pearson was operated by Transport Canada, as were most if not all major airports. Increasingly, senior governments don't want to operate anything, which may be a good or bad thing depending on your political leanings. Even under TC, there were still contracted services (fuel, etc.) but historically, the airlines operated all of their own end-to-end services, such as baggage handling, maintenance, etc. but that has now changed to the corporate world contracting out pretty much anything they can get away with. Contracting and silos aren't going away anytime soon, but personally I would prefer to see fewer but broader silos, such as all baggage handling. No doubt there are drawbacks to any model, but it seems the more profit-oriented, bottom line protecting corporations that are involved, the harder it is to be responsive.

A prime example of this is trying to deal with parking and traffic issues around the terminals, including taxi/limo services. It can involve any combination of Peel Regional Police, Commissionaires, contracted parking control, GTAA groundside operations or even municipal bylaw enforcement.

Obviously, there is no getting away from the federal government operating immigration and port of entry control service; they are hallmarks of a sovereign nation. Security screening at the responsibility of CATSA, not the airport authority, which contracts out all or most of its services to private security companies. It is currently a Crown Corporation but legislation is in place to enable it to be privatized.
 
so my brother was able to get off the plane easily at T3 and was out of customs within 5 min.... is T3 less plagued or is the staff surge finally working?
 
so my brother was able to get off the plane easily at T3 and was out of customs within 5 min.... is T3 less plagued or is the staff surge finally working?
From what I read, it sounds like the majority of the problems are happening in T1.
 
Like any complex system there’s probably a myriad of problems that compound. And, like any overcommitted system, failures under load will be catastrophic, i.e. the system won’t degrade gracefully.

First, there are too many actors (GTAA, CATSA, CATSA contractors, CBSA, CBP, Federal Govt., airlines) which makes fast and coherent decision-making a challenge.

Next, I doubt anyone really had any idea when air travel would pick up, and so, no long-term plans were made. It’s unlikely that the Federal government had a long-term plan, otherwise they would have at least given a 6-8 month notice to start hiring and training. But, 6-8 months ago was October - December last year, and we were hitting another COVID wave.

Wages the contractors pay are absolutely an issue - and not just a Canadian one. It’s hitting US airports as well, since they’re now competing against warehouse jobs that pay approximately the same for better benefits and working conditions.

The random testing is definitely a cause of load, as was the widely-derided comment by the Minister of Transport about people having forgotten how to travel (I definitely am not as fast as I used to be, and I have seen people who forgot all the rules, like putting liquids in bags, causing an entire security line to stall.)

Finally, since Air Canada’s customer service/gate agents are short-staffed (see wage post above), it probably takes forever to service complaints because there isn’t as much slack in capacity to reschedule, causing even more complaints, and potentially turning simple issues into harder-to-solve ones.

This ‘exponentially bad’ (I use this phrase very loosely) behavior would only happen when your system is close to capacity, and you have a problem - which could why people have reported such wildly different experiences flying through Pearson.

Unfortunately, as the public we’re really bad at nuance, and we really want there to be a single bad actor (based on our biases) that we can name and shame.
 

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