Skip to content

Column: The Pearson pitfalls

A column on recent experience with Toronto airport.
Toronto Pearson airport
Toronto Pearson airport.

It’s becoming a national punchline: the lineups and delays at Pearson International Airport in Toronto and at other airports in the country. 

Thanks to my recent trip to Atlantic Canada, I experienced the challenges of travelling through Pearson. Twice. As documented last week, it was a wonderful trip, once I arrived in Halifax.

As for my Pearson experiences, they fit under the category of “They could have been worse.”

I flew from Regina to Halifax on June 21, ready for what was supposed to be a four-hour layover, and with no notifications of delays, I was hopeful that I would board the flight to Halifax on time, or close to it. My initial arrival time in Halifax was to be 10:27 p.m. My parents were looking forward to picking me up. 

Shortly after I arrived in Halifax and sat down for lunch, I received a notification. My flight would be delayed two hours. 

After several more delays, including some after the passengers boarded the plane, we arrived in Halifax. At around 2:30 a.m. on June 22.  

It should be noted that at one point, after we boarded the aircraft, we were informed the flight was being delayed. For catering. At 11:30 p.m. Nobody was thinking of eating at that point. I thought about leading an uprising on the plane to get us moving. But the thought of being punted, getting placed on a no-fly list and destroying my holiday created second thoughts. (One person behind me did call for the plane to get moving).

After arriving in Halifax and deplaning, there was a large group of people from another airline who had been waiting a couple of hours for their luggage. I saw what looked to be some suitcases cluttered together in a corner. But I can’t say for certain. It was nearly 3 a.m. As for me, my checked-in suitcase arrived.

There have been other issues with checked-in baggage not arriving in Halifax. 

The flight back to Saskatchewan created more unpredictability. I was supposed to have a 3 1/2-hour layover in Toronto. It became a seven-hour wait. But there were a couple of differences this time. I was notified several days in advance that there would be a delay. That made it easier to stomach. I could give the person picking me up at the Regina airport plenty of advanced notice.  

And it helps that I still landed in Regina at 5 p.m. that day instead of at 2:30 a.m.   

Other people have much worse stories. During a June 29 tour of the Alexander Keith’s brewery in Halifax (highly recommended, even if you’re not a beer person) we met a really nice couple from the Vancouver area. They were supposed to be in Europe for a vacation by that point. But they were in Halifax, after their connecting flight to Europe was cancelled.

They were supposed to head out to Europe on Canada Day. I’m not sure if they made it. I hope they did. And while there are certainly worse places to be for a multi-day layover than Halifax, it’s little consolation when it comes to losing out on several days of a much-anticipated holiday.  

There’s so much demand for travel right now, both domestically and internationally. If you thought the biggest challenge associated with travel this summer was going to be higher prices associated with the rising cost of fuel, or finding a flight, well, guess again.  

I was hoping that when the feds eased up on the pandemic-related restrictions for travel, it would have eased up on the problem. But people are still facing long delays, luggage is still getting misplaced and flights are still getting cancelled. 

It’s a problem with multiple layers, and some of the issues, such as staffing, will take time to resolve.

Canada isn’t alone in facing these issues, either.

In the meantime, if you’re travelling by air this summer, expect to encounter challenges. If you’re flying out of a smaller airport, hopefully that will be all right. If your flight involves a layover in a bigger centre, expect a longer wait. 

If you’re flying internationally, well, all I can say is good luck.

But we’ve waited for this opportunity. And after having plans dashed by COVID-19 in the summers of 2020 and 2021, we want to be out and seeing the world again, despite the challenges we’re now facing.