Toronto's Pearson International Airport is warning passengers that they should expect longer wait times as of Tuesday when Canada opens its borders to fully vaccinated foreign travellers who meet entry conditions.
International travellers will be allowed to enter Canada without having to quarantine for 14 days, starting on Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. ET. They will be allowed into the country for non-essential reasons and that includes tourism. Most non-essential foreign travellers have been barred from entering Canada since the start of the pandemic.
Travellers, however, must have proof that they have received two doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before arrival, be asymptomatic and have taken a valid pre-arrival COVID-19 molecular test. They must also be willing to take a COVID-19 test if selected.
In a statement this week, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) said it is anticipating greater numbers of international travellers arriving at Pearson starting on Tuesday due to the border change.
"We do expect to see an increase in international travellers as a result of this change, and we'll continue working with our agency partners and airlines to best manage the flow of passengers," the GTAA said.
The GTAA noted that international travellers arriving at Pearson should prepare for the arrivals process to take one to three hours or longer due to new COVID-19 screening measures.
The process involves clearing the Canada Border Services Agency and Public Health Agency of Canada screening, collecting bags and possible COVID-19 testing if a traveller is required to be tested.
"At this time, the extended passenger wait times are something that is created by necessary conditions in the airport such as reducing crowding where possible, which requires more holding, and enhanced screening in customs, which protects our borders and adds time to every passenger's journey," the GTAA said.
Number of passengers largest since pandemic began
The GTAA said an increase in COVID-19 public health measures, along with a greater number of passengers, has led to delays and the holding of passengers on planes and in waiting areas within terminals.
"These delays, when they occur, primarily occur during peak international arrival periods that begin as early as midday and run until late evening. We are working closely with airport partners to maintain a safe and efficient operation," the GTAA said.
In a statement on its website on Sunday, Pearson Airport reminded passengers that the "airport experience" is different now than it was before the pandemic.
"For departing domestic passengers, we ask that you arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes in advance of your flight. For departing international passengers, please arrive at least 3 hours in advance. The arrivals process for international travellers could take three hours or longer depending on your specific set of circumstances," the airport said.
Beverly MacDonald, spokesperson for the GTAA, said in an email on Sunday that the average weekly passenger volumes at Pearson appear to be the largest that it has seen since the pandemic started.
"Government agencies at Toronto Pearson are working to process passengers as safely and efficiently as possible," she added.