LILLEY: Pearson ranked worst airport for delays, Canadian airlines hit the top of the chart and it might get worse

Time for the Trudeau government to show leadership and stop looking the other way.

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Toronto’s Pearson is the worst airport in the world for delays this summer. You don’t need to take my word for it, CNN declared it after analyzing data from Flight Aware between May 26 and July 19.

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On cancellations, Pearson is the fourth worst airport in the world.

Over that time period, 52.5% of all scheduled flights at Pearson were delayed while 6.5% were cancelled. The second worst airport for delays was Frankfurt with 45.4% of all flights delayed.

The Trudeau government continues to say this is an international phenomenon, their policies aren’t contributing to any of the delays, and there is nothing more they can do. Yet, Canadian airlines and airports are regularly the worst in the world.

On Thursday, the three airlines with the highest percentage of flights delayed in the entire world were Air Canada Rouge (58%), Air Canada (57%) and Jazz (54%). Montreal’s Trudeau was the airport with the second-highest percentage of delayed flights at 48%, while Pearson had a relatively good day with just 42% of flights delayed.

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The security screening at Pearson continues to be a nightmare with lines that lasted three hours to get through security for much of this week. One passenger detailed to me their ordeal of taking 45 minutes to go through the Nexus line, the supposedly fast-track system for pre-screened travellers — and this was for a domestic flight.

As if things weren’t grim enough, we could see WestJet counter staff and baggage handlers go on strike this coming week in Calgary – the company’s hub – and in Vancouver. Wages are a sticking point, of course, driven in part by the abuse these workers are taking from frustrated passengers dealing with crowded airports, chronic delays and missed connections.

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Leslie Dias, the director of airlines for Unifor, said her members don’t want to inconvenience passengers but they are frustrated by the company. The employees are doing more work, taking more abuse, but not getting more money.

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“It seems to fall on deaf ears and it’s almost like they get comfort in the fact that it’s a mess everywhere, as it gives them an excuse to not address some of the underlying systemic issues that exist,” Dias told the Calgary Herald this week.

WestJet doesn’t deny workers have been asked to do more – check vaccination status, for example – but the extra work has come from federal government regulations, in their view, and won’t last. It’s likely the two sides will reach an agreement but with the union in a strike position as of July 27, the timing couldn’t be worse.

Unifor and its members, including Dias at the top, won’t want to face further anger from travellers and neither will WestJet nor its executive team led by newly minted CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech. Talks are thankfully continuing but the federal labour minister should be getting personally involved.

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The worst part is that if a strike does happen, passengers won’t have anywhere to go. The system is so tight at the moment that Air Canada or other competitors like Flair or Lynx won’t be able to offer an alternative to many passengers.

And those delays in Toronto and Montreal will only get worse as delays or cancelations in Calgary and Vancouver cascade across the system.

The summer of discontent at Canada’s airports could get much worse in the next week. Just like with delays at security screening and at Customs, there is a role for the federal government to play here but their leadership is absent. It’s far easier to blame the airlines, blame travellers or claim it’s an international problem than to get to work looking for solutions.

Time for the Trudeau government to show leadership on all these fronts and stop looking the other way when Canada’s airlines and airports are at the top of the charts for all the wrong reasons.

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