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Mississauga officials, GTAA call on Fed to remove time-consuming COVID-19 procedures at Pearson Airport

Joanna Lavoie,

Published Monday, May 30, 2022 4:33 PM EDT

Last updated Monday, May 30, 2022 4:43 PM EDT

Local leaders and airport officials say that as the busy summer travel season draws to a close, immediate steps should be taken to reduce long line-ups and extended wait times at Pearson.

During a press conference on Monday morning, several Mississauga leaders called on the federal government to remove on-arrival random COVID-19 testing and duplicate health checks, which are particularly important due to inadequate staffing levels at Canada’s largest airport. has been problematic.

“The recent travel experience will have a detrimental and lasting impact on how our region is perceived internationally and is having a negative impact on new international investment for the Toronto area,” said Victoria Clark, CEO of Tourism Mississauga.

“Travel is meant to be a seamless experience and after years of suffering for our tourism sector, we must work to remove unnecessary barriers to entry. During the peak of the pandemic, our region understood that we needed to make sacrifices for the betterment of the country, but now that these times are behind us, these constraints have become impossible to justify. ,

Clark said it took an average of 30 seconds to process an incoming passenger before the pandemic. Today, that wait could be four times longer, she said.

“The last thing we need is another obstacle that hinders our collective recovery.”

Mississauga Board of Trade chief executive Trevor McPherson said businesses in his city have been particularly affected by delays at the airport.

“The success of our business community depends on the success of Pearson,” he said.

“After years of challenges to our local travel economy and the loss of 94,000 jobs in Mississauga’s tourism-related industries during the pandemic, our businesses and visitors rely on a seamless and efficient airport process to offer our region We do.”

The president of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, which operates Pearson, said that despite the uptick in travel, traffic is only half what it was before the pandemic.

“We are seeing unacceptable issues plaguing air travelers,” said Doug Ellingham, adding that only last week at Pearson nearly 50 percent of all international passengers suffered some kind of delay.

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Ellingham said he appreciates the federal government’s recent assurances to address these issues, particularly the recruitment of more screening officers, but said more needs to be done.

He said the answer is a significant shortcoming in the above “COVID-19-related procedures”.

“This is a step that can be taken immediately to facilitate travel and encourage more travelers to travel from Canada. It is imperative that the government takes this step before it is too late.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said the tourism sector in her city and throughout Ontario is dependent on Toronto Pearson International Airport to operate efficiently.

“This means that travelers have the best experience possible walking through another door,” said Crombie, who offered to help federal governments in Canada and the United States find solutions such as “elimination.”

Some of the repetition we are seeing in screening, security and customs procedures” and “seeking investment in recruitment strategies that will help train and on-board new employees as quickly as possible.”

Today, the Office of the Canadian Minister of Health provided no guarantee that these requests would be heeded.

In a statement, the ministry said that as the country begins to gradually reopen and activities resume, it is important to remember that the pandemic is not over.

That being said, travelers are being advised that they should still expect longer wait times at airports, “especially when arriving during peak times.”

“We are aware of the long lines and delays at airports across the country and understand the frustration of passengers. As the number of passengers increases, we have worked to build capacity and additional capacity at the border,” he said in a statement. “COVID restrictions and health requirements are continually reviewed to ensure they are current and relevant to protect the health and safety of Canadians.”

The ministry said one way to “reduce congestion and processing times at airports” in crowded areas is for all air travelers to complete their ArrivCan submissions ahead of time, which is mandatory for all travelers to Canada. And a fully vaccinated traveler is required to qualify for the exemption. Quarantine and testing. Anyone who fails to submit proof of their travel information and vaccinations using this system could be fined $5,000.

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At this time, only vaccinated travelers are tested at the site and those selected for mandatory random testing are given test kits to use at home.

In a May 27 release, the Canadian government said it was working with airports and air carriers to “expeditiously address delays while continuing to conduct adequate security checks”.

In particular, an outbound screening committee is being created to address barriers at pre-board security screening and pre-clearance departure checkpoints and to develop new approaches to deal with these “pressure points in the travel system”.

An additional 400 screening officers have also been hired across the country to work at the passenger checkpoints. These new employees are to be deployed between now and the end of June.

The government said the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority is “very close” to recruiting all of its additional summer screening officers at multiple airports, including in person.

Pre-certified Screening Officers are now also performing other non-screening functions so that the Certified Officers can focus on their core functions.

Scheduling is also being adjusted to best assist with busy travel times, and best practices are being studied to see where these procedures can be implemented at other airports.

Among other things, Canada’s Public Health Agency is removing mandatory random testing for international to domestic connections.

In Pearson, the Canada Border Services Agency is adding 25 kiosks to accelerate processing times as well as increase available officer capacity and facilitate the return of student Border Service officers. Travelers aged 16 and over can use the new eGate there to verify their identity and submit their Customs and Immigration Declaration.

“While more remains to be done, these efforts are paying off through a decline in waiting times for screenings,” said the statement issued by Transport Minister Omar Alghabara and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino.

“Since the start of the month, the number of passengers waiting 30 minutes or more for outbound screening at our largest airports (Toronto Pearson International, Vancouver International, Montreal Trudeau International and Calgary International) has increased at all four airports. halved.”

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