The MP says Ottawa has underestimated Canadians’ desire to travel again

A member of parliament said Ottawa may have underestimated Canadians’ willingness to travel when it plans to return to normal after most pandemic restrictions end.

Airlines and airports are grappling with a surge in customers this summer, with staffing shortages affecting carriers and federal agencies.

As a result, travelers have experienced widespread flight cancellations, baggage delays and long lineups, particularly at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

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‘No evidence’ ArriveCAN app causes ‘no problems’ at border: Transport minister

Last month, due to an error, the ArriveCan app instructed 10,200 travelers to quarantine for 10 days when they were not required to.

Annie Koutrakis, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transportation, told reporters in Calgary on Tuesday that plans to return to normal fell short.

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“We assumed. Yes, the plan has begun. The desire we unfortunately underestimated was that everyone wanted to travel and everyone wanted to travel at the same time,” Koutrakis said.

“The data shows us that we didn’t expect everyone to start traveling to the degree that they did. It’s not like we were waiting and planning behind the scenes to get ready for it. It could have been done more.”

Click to play video: 'Canada's transport minister blames frustrating airport delays on pandemic'

Canada’s transport minister blames frustrating airport delays on pandemic

Canada’s transport minister blames frustrating airport delays on pandemic

Koutrakis said that this is the first time that the government has gone through an epidemic like Covid-19 and lessons should be learned from it.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra asked a House of Commons committee about the delay last week.

Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman asked him if the federal government bears any responsibility and Alghabra replied: “I blame it on COVID.” He said labor shortage was the main reason behind the delay in work.

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Koutrakis said the data indicates that abandoning the ArriveCan app will increase delays and bottlenecks and that removing the mask mandate will not reduce wait times.

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As flight delays continue, here’s what to know about compensation

Koutrakis announced nearly $2 million to help Calgary International Airport improve current and future flight schedules and connection times between flights, as well as establish dedicated corridors to enable physical distancing.

No airline representatives were present at the announcement. But Bob Sarter, president and CEO of the Calgary Airport Authority, said carriers are suffering from similar problems in recruiting enough staff.

“The reality is, they are facing many of the same issues that we are facing at YYC and that is the need for more staff. They did what we did as an airport and they reduced their staff significantly during the pandemic,” Sarter said.

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Sartor can take months to re-certify pilots and complete personnel security clearances.

“Sometimes it can be two or three months … there are some things that have to happen, and one of the things is we need to certify pilots. We need to get more staff like the air carriers,” Sarter said.

“If we have one of these black swan events – and I pray we don’t – we need an integrated aviation sector restart plan.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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