House transportation committee to investigate Canada’s air service

The House of Commons transport committee is launching an investigation into airport delays and flight cancellations.

The committee met virtually Monday and voted unanimously to move forward with a study on the delays.

The committee will invite Transport Minister Omar Alghabra to testify and hold its first hearing late next week.

Airlines and airports have been dealing with a spike in travel this summer, compounded by staffing shortages affecting both airlines and federal agencies.

That has led to widespread flight cancellations, baggage delays and long lines, with the Greater Toronto Area Pearson International Airport bearing the brunt of these issues.

John Gradek, director of the aviation management program at McGill University, said airlines have aggressively increased their flight schedules as travel picks up again, but they have been unaware of their own labor shortages.

Airlines laid off workers at the start of the pandemic and have faced challenges in rehiring enough workers in the industry.

“Airlines … launched a whole series of flights and schedules that were very aggressive to basically capture as much of this traffic as possible and without really understanding what the impact would be on the ability of aviation infrastructure and ecosystems to handle it all.” this traffic,” Gradek said.

Gradek said airports are also responsible for the delays because they haven’t capped the number of flights to match their capacities. Part of the problem, he said, is that they don’t have the authority to order airlines to reduce flight volume.

Last week, the head of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority said delays at Canada’s busiest travel hub are easing, but stopped short of committing or setting specific timelines for improving travel times in the future.

The House of Commons transport committee will investigate airport delays. #CDNPoli #AirportDelays

Other airports around the world have ordered airlines to reduce flights. The UK’s Heathrow airport has ordered airlines to stop selling tickets for summer flights as it has imposed a limit on the number of passengers per day.

“Airlines don’t want to cut schedules, because if you cut schedules, you cut your market share,” Gradek said.

He said he will pay close attention to any proposed solutions that come out of the transportation committee to ensure that the next time the country faces a crisis, there are limited disruptions at airports.

Friendly efforts to resolve the issue aren’t working, so “we need some authority,” he said.

Air Canada announced in June that it would cut more than 15 percent of its schedule in July and August, more than 9,500 flights, due to the overloaded air transport system. Meanwhile, WestJet said it “proactively” removed flights from its Pearson schedule, anticipating summer travel grunts.

Transport Canada said the government and the aviation industry are working together to improve travel, including through meetings with stakeholders, increasing staffing levels and improving the ArriveCan app.

Air Canada is also facing criticism for rejecting compensation claims from passengers whose flight cancellations or delays are due to staffing shortages as a result of the pandemic.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 8, 2022.

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