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Wednesday,  May 22, 2024 8:37 PM 

Canadian airlines respond to Pearson's plan to limit flights during peak times


Canadian airlines respond to Pearson's plan to limit flights during peak times
Canadian airlines respond to Toronto Pearson's plan to limit flights during peak travel times. (File photos)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ) will be placing limits on the number of flights arriving or departing during peak times ahead of March Break and this summer’s travel season.

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), which operates Pearson airport, shared statements with media on Tuesday (Feb. 28), confirming that it will be implementing several measures to "flatten peak-hour schedules.”

While the GTAA has not yet provided any details on the cap limits, major Canadian airlines are saying the plan, generally speaking, will not have any immediate impacts on operations. 

However, adjustments to future schedules have been made.

Air Canada, yesterday, stated that it created its 2023 winter schedule with the new carrier limitations in mind and “anticipates no significant changes to its schedule for the March Break travel period.”

READ MORE: “Express” tool for security lines will drive improvements at Pearson, says GTAA

The airline said it subsequently received information about the GTAA's plans for summer 2023 and similarly designed this summer's schedule to meet those parameters.

“It is Air Canada's policy to work with its industry partners to meet the requirements of airports and other third parties to drive operational improvements and support the smooth running of Canada's air transport system,” the carrier stated. “This includes, as in this case, adapting its schedule as required to ensure operational stability, and is a normal process.”

"Hard limits"

In a statement to CBC News yesterday, GTAA spokesperson Rachel Bertone, said Pearson will impose “hard limits on the number of commercial flights that can arrive or depart in any given hour along with limits on business/general aviation flights.”

"In addition, measures have been applied to cap the number of passengers that can arrive internationally, or depart to the United States through each terminal, in a given hour,” Bertone said.

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority, which operates Pearson airport, will limit flights during peak hours. (File photo/Pax Global Media)

The update comes after Pearson airport, last year, alongside airlines, struggled with operational problems that started in spring and continued into summer that led to unprecedented delays, hours-long bottlenecks at security, lost baggage and many cancellations.

READ MORE: Pearson among 5 worst largest North American airports in traveller satisfaction 

At one point, the situation got so bad that Toronto Pearson claimed the top spot for flight delays worldwide by FlightAware. Not long after, YYZ was ranked fourth-worst major airport in the world for overall satisfaction by a J.P. Power survey.

The GTAA, alongside airlines that operate out of Pearson, have blamed the issues on a lack of security screening staff, the federal COVID-19 restrictions and limitations on airplane movements.

Travellers pass through Toronto Pearson airport in June 2022. (Pax Global Media/file photo)

Lost luggage continues to plague the air travel experience.

However, the GTAA is looking to fix this, telling media outlets yesterday that it has contracted an outside firm to do “a baggage system health check” and is looking to increase its storage of baggage to avoid reliance on the supply chain.

“Hurdles & required adjustments”

But will the plan to limit flights at Canada's busiest airport lead to last-minute cancellations? The strategy raises questions. 

In a statement to PAX, WestJet spokesperson Madison Kruger said the airline created its upcoming summer schedule “in compliance with the outlined capacity restraints and as a result has not had to cancel any further flights.”

READ MORE: Canadian airports, airlines top global list of delays; Pearson second-worst offender on earth

However, the GTAA’s limitations have “created hurdles and required adjustments when planning our transborder and international flying,” Kruger said.

“These hurdles include, adjusting our scheduled flight times to occur outside of peak travel periods to align with the GTAA’s peak hour restrictions,” Kruger said. “The right path forward for improved outcomes should focus on shared accountability, greater transparency and a more resilient system overall.”

Speaking to PAX, Air Transat spokesperson Marie-Christine Pouliot said the GTAA’s decision to cap flights at Pearson Airport during peak travel times “will not impact” Air Transat operations in the short term.

“However, this decision highlights gaps in airport infrastructure that need to be addressed promptly through continued collaboration with Pearson, government, NAVCANADA and all partners in the air travel ecosystem, to preserve the best possible passenger travel experience and choice for Canadian travellers,” Pouliot said.

Porter Airlines' new Embraer E195-E2. (Pax Global Media)

At Porter Airlines, which recently expanded to Toronto Pearson with new Embraer E195-E2 jets, it appears to be business as usual.

Brad Cicero, director, communications and public affairs at Porter, told PAX that the airline has been given “no unusual schedule guidance” from Pearson for any period.

“The normal flight allocation process is being followed and we’ll continue doing this as flights are built at Pearson,” Cicero said.

PAX also reached out to Sunwing, which started the year off with a slew of route suspensions, but did not hear back by press time.

In a statement posted Wednesday, the National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC) noted that the GTAA's capacity reduction has "already been factored into flight schedules" by Canadian airlines for the coming months.

"Canadians can be confident that airlines and airports plan flight schedules well in advance to ensure passengers can take to the skies and reconnect with the world," the NACC stated.

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