Travel delays: Passengers hope the end of the random tests will clear the backlog

Chaos among travelers at Canadian airports has led to the temporary lifting of mandatory randomized COVID-19 testing for vaccinated travelers.

The random tests will be suspended until the end of June to clear the massive passenger backlog, which particularly plagues Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

Osama Faris returned to Ottawa from the UK and decided to bypass Toronto altogether.

“I was actually supposed to fly to Toronto from the UK, but I got to the London airport early so I asked them if they could get me on an earlier flight,” he said. “I came to Montreal because I knew if I entered Pearson it would be a disaster area.”

Canadians have waited hours to get through regular travel checks. Nearly half a million passengers were held up aboard international flights after landing at Pearson last month.

The federal government pledges to ease congestion by temporarily lifting mandatory random COVID-19 testing for vaccinated passengers.

“Hopefully if they identify that as part of the backlog, if that sorts things out,” said Jennifer Sutton, a traveler in Ottawa.

On July 1, all tests will be conducted off-site to reduce delays with baggage, security and customs.

“Doing the testing outside of the site creates a whole new logistical problem as travelers have to move to a different site,” said Duncan Dee, former Chief Operating Officer of Air Canada.

While the travel headache continues, at least one major airline is shrinking capacity.

Air Canada plans to operate at 20 percent less capacity this summer compared to its pre-pandemic summer schedule.

“This is due to government delays and cancellations,” Dee said. “If airlines experience non-stop delays for 70 days in a row since April, they have no choice but to reduce their capacity.”

The federal government has said the Canadian Border Services Agency and the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority are ramping up recruitment to return to pre-pandemic staffing levels.