As Canadian airports deal with their own set of problems amid the busy summer travel season, by no means are they alone.
Long lineups, cancelled flights, delays and lost luggage are issues infiltrating not just Canada’s major airports but those in other countries as well, one travel expert says.
“We’re seeing the exact same issues happening 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 issues, the U.S. is definitely facing a lot of these issues, not just with flight delays but also with the cancellations, because they’re saying they don’t have enough pilots sometimes to fill up these flights and get people from place to place. So it’s a bit of an issue all around the world and I would keep that in mind.”
Weatherhead advises travellers to get to their departing airports as early as possible and check that their travel insurance covers trip cancellations, interruptions and lost or stolen baggage.
“Be prepared for delays at any point,” she said.
The aviation industry cut thousands of jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic as demand for travel plummeted. Now, with COVID-19 restrictions lifted in many jurisdictions, demand for travel has rebounded but staffing levels have not kept pace.
Travel in the U.S. has been particularly strained recently due to the Fourth of July holiday weekend, with airports seeing their largest crowds since the pandemic began more than two years ago.
The tracking site FlightAware reported more than 6,800 flight delays and another 587 cancellations at U.S. airports on Friday and more than 2,200 delays and 540 cancellations recorded as of late Saturday morning.
Airlines including Delta, Southwest and JetBlue have pared down their summer schedules to avoid further issues, something both Air Canada and WestJet have done, as well.
Outside North America, a technical breakdown on Saturday left at least 1,500 bags stuck at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, with 15 flights departing without luggage.
Airport workers are also on strike in France, demanding more hiring and pay to keep up with global inflation. Aviation authorities cancelled a number of flights as a result.
In Amsterdam, the city’s Schiphol Airport announced last month it would limit the number of travellers departing each day to prevent long queues and missed flights.
The airport also is advising travellers to arrive no more than four hours before their flight to ensure a “smooth flow” at check-in counters and security.
Richard Vanderlubbe, an Association of Canadian Travel Agencies director and president of tripcentral.ca, told CTV News Channel on Saturday that if a pilot or crew calls in sick, an airline has to scramble to find a qualified pilot for that particular aircraft.
Many people also left the airline and travel industry for other “safer havens,” he said.
“Of course, when we’re on restrictions and had all these restrictions for so long, expecting that things are going to come on like a light switch, its not very realistic,” he said.
Justus Smith told CTV News Channel on Sunday he booked a flight from Regina to Boston but had his connecting flight through Toronto cancelled on June 25.
He got a flight for the following morning and chose to spend the night at the airport.
Even though he was 13 hours early, Smith says he couldn’t get through customs more than four hours before his departure.
Smith says he eventually missed his flight after being delayed at customs and security.
He eventually got to Boston but says he didn’t receive his checked-in luggage.
Now a week later, Smith is still waiting to get his bags.
“I spent the week at a professional development course. I was the only one with shorts and a baseball cap because I didn’t have clothes,” he said.
Despite the situation, Smith did credit the airport staff for the work they’re doing under difficult circumstances.
“The individual airport workers, they’re amazing. Everyone’s doing the best they can,” he said.
“You see a lot of angry customers. It makes no sense to get angry. It’s frustrating, but you can’t take it out on the staff.”
With files from CTV News and The Associated Press