Air travel: Canada not alone as airport woes continue

As Canadian airports grapple with their own problems amid the busy summer travel season, they are by no means alone.

Long queues, canceled flights, delays and lost luggage are problems infiltrating not only Canada’s major airports but those in other countries, says a travel expert.

“We’re seeing the exact same issues at all major airport hubs around the world,” Jennifer Weatherhead, founder of travelandstyle.ca, told CTV News Channel on Sunday.

“So Europe is facing a lot of these problems, the US is definitely facing a lot of these problems, not just with flight delays but also with cancellations, because they say sometimes they don’t have enough pilots to fill in flights and bring local people to Location. So it’s a small problem around the world and I would keep that in mind.

Weatherhead advises travelers to get to their departure airports as early as possible and check that their travel insurance covers trip cancellations, disruptions, and lost or stolen luggage.

“Be prepared for delays at any time,” she said.

The airline industry has shed thousands of jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic as travel demand plummeted. Now that COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in many countries, travel demand has recovered, but staffing levels have not kept pace.

Travel in the US has been particularly strained lately due to the Fourth of July bank holiday weekend, as airports recorded their busiest crowds since the pandemic began more than two years ago.

Tracking site FlightAware reported more than 6,800 flight delays and another 587 cancellations at US airports on Friday, and more than 2,200 delays and 540 cancellations as of late Saturday morning.

Airlines like Delta, Southwest and JetBlue have slashed their summer schedules to avoid further trouble, which both Air Canada and WestJet have done.

Outside North America, a technical glitch left at least 1,500 bags stuck at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport on Saturday, with 15 flights departing without bags.

Airport workers are also on strike in France, demanding more hiring and wages to keep up with global inflation. As a result, aviation authorities canceled a number of flights.

In Amsterdam, the city’s Schiphol Airport last month announced it would limit the number of travelers departing each day to avoid long queues and missed flights.

The airport is also advising travelers not to arrive more than four hours before their flight to ensure a “smooth process” at check-in counters and security.

Richard Vanderlubbe, director of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies and president of tripcentral.ca, told CTV News Channel on Saturday that if a pilot or crew falls ill, an airline must strive to find a qualified pilot for that particular aircraft reports.

Many people were also leaving the airline and travel industries for other “safer havens,” he said.

“Obviously when we’re under restrictions and we’ve had all those restrictions for so long, it’s not very realistic to expect things to come on like a light switch,” he said.

Justus Smith told CTV News Channel on Sunday he had booked a flight from Regina to Boston, but his connecting flight via Toronto was scheduled for March 25.

He got a flight for the next morning and decided to spend the night at the airport.

Despite being 13 hours early, Smith said he didn’t get through customs more than four hours before his departure.

Smith says he ended up missing his flight after being held up at customs and security.

He eventually got to Boston but said he did not receive his checked baggage.

Now a week later, Smith is still waiting to get his bags.

“I spent the week at a continuing education course. I was the only one in shorts and a baseball cap because I had no clothes,” he said.

Despite the situation, Smith commended airport staff for the work they are doing under difficult circumstances.

“The individual airport employees are great. Everyone is doing their best,” he said.

“You see a lot of angry customers. There’s no point in getting angry. It’s frustrating but you can’t take it out on the staff.”

With files from CTV News and The Associated Press