Toronto’s Pearson airport is advising passengers to give themselves extra time

In advance of Canada further easing travel restriction on August 9, not to mention a potential strike by Canadian Border Service Agency beginning Friday, Toronto’s Pearson International Airport wants travellers to know that if it’s their first time back at an airport since the pandemic began, then they should expect a different experience than they remembered. Delays and longer wait times are to be expected due to increased passenger volume and COVID-19 health measures.

With the re-opening of the border for non-essential travel by fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents on August 9 at 12:01 a.m. EDT, Pearson is anticipating interest in air travel to increase. While Pearson says it is working closely with airlines and government agencies to find every efficiency possible, it may take longer to pass through the airport due to additional health screenings for COVID-19. The entire airport community is working together to ensure that passenger and employee health and safety remain the top priority.

Departing passengers

Just like before the pandemic, departing passengers should give themselves lots of time when arriving for their flight. Passengers departing on domestic flights are advised to arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes before their flight time. Passengers on departing international flights will want to arrive at least three hours in advance. Passengers should be prepared to answer additional questions from their airline and present them with any additional documents they may require. Passengers should confirm the specific requirements that apply to their destination in advance with their airline.

To help save time, passengers can check-in online from home and then use a contactless kiosk to print their luggage tags.

Arriving passengers

For international passengers, they should be prepared to wait three hours or more to complete the arrivals process due to COVID-19 screening requirements, depending on their unique set of circumstances. If a flight arrives during peak hours, passengers may be asked to disembark the aircraft and proceed to an area of the terminal building to wait until space becomes available in the customs hall. When going through customs, passengers will be required to answer additional health questions. Passengers arriving from international destinations should remember to submit all required information in ArriveCAN (app or website) prior to arrival in Canada. This includes travel, contact and quarantine information. Fully vaccinated travellers must also provide proof of vaccination in English or French. Travellers using the App must ensure that they have the most up-to-date version available in the Google Play Store and the App Store for iPhone.

Additional delays could be possible if the The Public Service Alliance of Canada and its Customs and Immigration Union, which represent CBSA workers, goes ahead with its strike mandate if it doesn’t get a satisfactory contract by 6 a.m. Friday.

The union said its members will begin a series of strike actions at not only Canada’s airports, but also at land borders, shipping ports, postal facilities and various administrative locations.

“We truly hoped we wouldn’t be forced to take strike action, but we’ve exhausted every other avenue to reach a fair contract with the government,” said Chris Aylward, the union’s national president, in a release.

Finally, the airport reminds travellers eligible to enter Canada that they are still required to have a valid pre-arrival COVID-19 molecular test result.

More direct flights coming to Montreal, including low-cost service at St-Hubert

One of the more annoying things about being a traveller from Montreal is not having as many direct flights as Toronto which means having to fly there to connect to other destinations. It’s even more annoying when you are flying from somewhere in Europe and have to fly over Montreal on the way to Toronto in order to fly back home.

Thankfully, Montréal-Trudeau airport keeps on adding more and more direct flights to new destinations and welcoming new airlines. The latest is Norwegian which has been offering a direct connection to Pointe-à-Pitre and Fort-de-France since October. YUL is the first Canadian airport to welcome the airline.

Beginning April 29, 2019, Austria Airlines will also offer direct, year-round flights to Vienna. The long-haul flights will operate with a Boeing 767 aircraft with daily service throughout the summer and five flights per week during the winter.

Meanwhile, Sunwing will offer a new destination from Montreal starting on December 18. On that date, it will begin service to Mazatlán, the ninth Mexican destination served from YUL.

Sun-seekers will also be glad to learn that flights to Saint Martin and San Juan are coming back into service starting in mid-December. Air Canada will serve San Juan while Air Transat will operate to both destinations. Flights were cancelled to those destinations last year following Hurricane Irma.

With these additions this winter, Montréal-Trudeau will now connect to 127 destinations, including 69 international airports, which is an increase over the 123 destinations offered last year and sets a new record for air service during the winter season.

As of next year, more than 150 direct destinations will be offered from YUL, including 91 international destinations. This represents the fastest growth in air service at Montréal-Trudeau in a decade with the addition of 11 new destinations, including two in the spring of 2019.

Montreal travellers will also be glad to hear that the ultra low-cost carrier Canada Jetlines has announced that it will fly out of Saint Hubert Airport (YHU).

Jetlines’ aircraft roll-out strategy combined with the airport’s recent refurbishment of its main runway and its plan to build a passenger terminal building could bring Jetlines to the province as early as 2020.

St-Hubert runway upgrade could help attract low-cost carriers to Montreal

The news that Saint-Hubert Longueuil Airport has upgraded its primary runway to accommodate larger aircraft, such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus A220/320, is interesting to anyone who’s been hoping to see low-cost airlines flying out of Montreal.

More than $13 million of the $17-million runway upgrade was provided by the Canadian Government Airports Capital Assistance Program and is part of a development strategy to transform the airport into a regional transportation hub.

The only obstacle to bringing low-cost carriers into the airport today is the fact that St-Hubert has no actual terminal building to speak of. It makes me wonder if it might have been smarter to use the money to spruce up Mirabel Airport seeing that its runways can accommodate just about any airplane you can think of.

Of course, its terminal building was demolished only a few years ago because no one could foresee a day that Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport would not be able to accommodate growing air traffic to Montreal and there might be a need for a secondary airport to handle the overflow that might also be attractive to low-cost carriers.

St-Hubert does have the advantage of being closer to downtown Montreal compared to Mirabel, but I have a soft spot for Montreal’s previous airport of the future that today is only used for cargo flights.