'Domino effect': Flight delays in New Brunswick likely caused by hold ups in other cities

·3 min read
Half of the flights delayed from New Brunswick airports in Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton were held back by more than 30 minutes. (Photo: Shane Magee/CBC News - image credit)
Half of the flights delayed from New Brunswick airports in Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton were held back by more than 30 minutes. (Photo: Shane Magee/CBC News - image credit)

More than half of the flights out of New Brunswick were delayed this past week, and 20 per cent were cancelled, according to data analysis done by analyst Ray Harris.

Half of the flights delayed from New Brunswick airports in Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton were held back by more than 30 minutes.

Harris was supposed to see his grandmother in Toronto last Thursday, but his flight was cancelled twice, which inspired him to start his analysis.

"It kind of hits you a bit more when it happens to you," said Harris. "As any Maritimer knows, driving isn't fast, trains are even slower, buses are almost non-existent, and flying is really our only course for travel."

Harris said that while traveling has been difficult for the past few months, it's not a new problem. "I do think flying over the Maritimes has always been problematic, but not to the degree that it currently is."

Duncan Dee, a former Air Canada chief operating officer said delays might be caused by staff shortages, increased pandemic measures and weather conditions.

Flights coming to New Brunswick from major airports like Toronto Pearson Airport are often carrying passengers connecting from other cities, like Chicago, New York or Washington, said Dee. So when a delay happens in those cities, there's bound to be delays elsewhere.

It's like a domino effect - Duncan Dee

The border services agency's pandemic controls at Pearson Airport have caused the average inspection time per traveler to be four times longer, said Dee.

"There has been a bottleneck that's been created in the customs halls at Pearson Airport, which has meant that some aircraft have to wait up to two to three hours…before travelers are allowed to disembark."

Dee said these delays have been more prominent in the past 80 days.

"It's as if a thunderstorm has been going on for 80 straight days affecting the two biggest hubs in Canada, Montreal and Toronto," said Dee.

Solving the Problem

Adding extra staff might help manage delays, said Dee. Pearson airport announced 400 new security screening officers will be on the job at airports across the country by the end of June and 25 new border services kiosks are expected to help speed up processing times.

The government announced an end to the domestic vaccine mandate and the outbound international vaccine mandate, which might help manage processing times as well, but not by a lot, Dee said.

"In the case of customs, the government should…simply stop the vaccine requirement for foreign travelers coming into Canada," he said.
 
Implementing a similar system to "The Trusted Traveller Programs" in the United States could reduce those delays, said Dee. The program facilitates re-entry of already pre-approved travelers. The applicants are vetted to ensure they meet the needs of the program so they can get expedited screening at the airports.

Other countries also do not screen flight crews before they travel, which could save resources if implemented in Canada, said Dee.

Harris said he hopes to see some change with cancellations and delays soon.

"I think it's so hard. I don't know that there's any one lever that someone can pull that is going to change this for us or for anyone…I find it super shocking."

 

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