Transport minister confident in a smooth holiday air travel season, despite expecting large volume of passengers

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says the upcoming holiday travel season is sure to be a busy one, but that he’s working with air travel stakeholders to ensure the summer’s flight cancellations and lost luggage problems aren’t repeated.

Long wait times and flight cancellations plagued Canadian travellers throughout most of the summer months, with reports of lost luggage and a lack of communication from airlines. Toronto Pearson International Airport was also ranked the worst airport in the world for flight delays in July.

But Alghabra told Joyce Napier on CTV’s Question Period, in an interview airing Sunday, he’s been working with the CEOs of major airlines, airports, and the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, among others, to ensure a smooth holiday travel season.

“Look, Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year,” he said. “Because it is going to be one of the busiest times of the year I expect there will be some lineups, but what I want to make sure that never happens again is these unacceptable delays that we saw last summer, of cancellations, of frustration, of luggage loss.”

“We are going to do everything we can in government to continue to encourage and pressure, and work with our industry partners to make sure that they’re ready, and that we’re doing everything properly according to the forecasted volume that is expected,” he also said.

Alghabra said it’s still a Canadian winter, and delays caused by weather events such as snowstorms are always a possibility, but that “notwithstanding all of that, the organizations need to be prepared and ready for that busy season.”

Over the summer, Alghabra repeatedly chalked up much of the delays to staffing shortages coming down from of the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am being reassured regularly that staffing levels are where they need to be,” Alghabra said. “I keep an eye on it regularly as I said, so I feel confident.”

“Everyone should know that there’s an intense focus by everyone that the sector is ready for the Christmas rush, and I want people to feel confident,” he also said. “This is the first Christmas in a couple of years where we don’t have travel restrictions. I know many people want to visit their loved ones. I want them to feel confident.”

The transport minister held a summit for industry stakeholders in late November to prepare for the upcoming holiday travel season, and “focus on lessons learned from last summer,” and he said there was a focus on how to update how air travel partners share and digitize information, plans to modernize passenger security screening processes, and review the traveller protections regulations.

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