More than half of all domestic flights from some of Canada’s major airports are canceled or delayed, according to recent data.
DataWazo, a data strategy agency based in Fredericton, New Brunswick, has been tracking the data as frustrations mount in Canada over long delays at airports, in part due to increased summer travel and a lack staff at the airport.
“There was some kind of hope for a recovery when the warrants were lifted on the 20th. It hasn’t been seen on a large scale yet,” Ray Harris, owner of DataWazo, told CTV National News.
“The numbers are about the same before the 20th and after the 20th. It just doesn’t seem to be improving.”
The federal government on June 20 removed the requirement for outbound domestic and international travelers to provide proof of vaccination when traveling by plane or train.
Pushed by the tourism and airline sectors, they believed the move would help boost staff numbers.
But documents presented to Parliament and reviewed by CTV National News show the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) had 1,904 officers working at airports in Canada as of May 1, 2022, up from 2,033 on January 1, 2020 and 1,981 January 1st. 2016.
As of May 4, 2022, 103 CBSA employees were on leave without pay due to their vaccination status.
Meanwhile, documents show there were 6,867 people employed by Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) contractors to carry out security checks at airports as of May 16, 2022.
This compares to 7,420 active screening officers as of January 1, 2020 and 5,509 as of January 1, 2016.
Six CATSA employees were on leave without pay due to their vaccination status as of June 14. CATSA is responsible for screening passengers and baggage at Canadian airports.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said while the federal government predicted a return to travel, few predicted the surge was happening now.
But he says 91% of passengers currently waiting in CATSA lines are processed in 15 minutes or less, which he called a significant improvement from three or four weeks ago.
“On our side, we did everything we could under the control of the federal government,” he said. “Now we need to work with airlines and airports to manage flight delays and baggage handling issues because we need the cooperation of airlines and airports to resolve these issues.”
Mark Weber, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union, says the number of frontline workers has been on a “slow erosion” for some time.
“So right now we’re hiring the same number that we hired last year and the year before. The numbers that were hiring basically cover attrition,” he said.
Meanwhile, the CBSA is imposing mandatory overtime and suspending non-essential training as part of its “summer action plan.”
Even though more people have been hired this year, Weber says that under the current system, an individual must complete 18 weeks of training and a year of apprenticeship before becoming a full officer.
“So to approach things for this summer, this ship has kind of sailed.”
With files from CTV News and The Canadian Press
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