6 Changes At Pearson Airport You Should Know About Before Travelling This Month

Help yourself out as things are about to get much busier.

Ontario Editor
Passengers waiting for their baggage at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ).

Passengers waiting for their baggage at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ).

Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) is heading back into some of its busiest weeks of the year and with that in mind, the airport is taking several steps to decrease wait times, streamline airport security, and improve operations at baggage claim.

Pearson Airport is prepping for travel over the upcoming March break, from March 13 to 17, and after that, it won't be long before we're back into the peak summer travel season.

This time last year, both peak travel periods resulted in countless horror stories from travellers, with the airport eventually earning the title of the worst in the world for delays.

In hopes of avoiding anything close to a repeat, there are several things Toronto Pearson is doing to improve its operations and there are many things you can do to help yourself, too.

Here are six changes you should know about if you're set to travel through Pearson Airport this month.

Flights are being limited during peak travel times 

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) has taken steps to limit the total number of flights that can take off or land at Pearson Airport during peak travel times, specifically down to the busiest times of the day.

"These include hard limits on the number of commercial flights that can arrive or depart in any given hour, along with limits on business/general aviation flights," a GTAA spokesperson told Narcity.

This "hard limit" doesn't mean Pearson's ability to accommodate a certain number of flights has been limited, but rather is a way to "spread demand out over the course of each day."

"In preparation for March Break and summer 2023, the GTAA engaged with its airline partners as early as the third quarter of 2022 to collaboratively flatten out daily peaks for a more reliable and predictable air travel experience," the spokesperson said.

Pearson hasn't clarified exactly how many flights will be impacted or changed by this hard limit, but in a statement of its own, Air Canada said it anticipates "no significant changes" and explained that its March Break and summer schedules were designed around these plans.

Pearson is trying to fix its baggage system

As recently as December 2022, travellers at Pearson were facing massive delays waiting for their bags, and photos of luggage grouped together at baggage claim had gone viral. It's clear this is something the airport doesn't want to happen again.

"We have brought in an outside firm to do a baggage system health check," said the GTAA. "They will be conducting interviews and an on-site assessment with a targeted completion date of spring 2023."

While the results of that "health check" to reduce wait times and delays for baggage at Pearson is underway, the airport also offered the reminder that baggage is a "shared responsibility," between the airport and the carriers.

International arrivals and US departures are being limited 

On top of the new "hard limit" being placed on the total number of flights coming in and going out of Pearson Airport, international flights in and out are also being impacted in an effort to reduce wait times and delays.

"Measures have been applied to cap the number of passengers that can arrive internationally, or depart to the United States through each terminal, in a given hour," the GTAA told Narcity and explained the focus here is to ease the pressure off of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

"We’ve also been constraining transborder flights for months to account for staffing levels," said the spokesperson.

Save yourself time at US customs

If you do happen to be travelling from Pearson Airport to the US, a new app can make your life a bit easier.

The US CBP Mobile Passport Control app allows you to submit your passport and customs declaration information in advance to help save you time when going through US customs.

It's free to use and is available at Pearson, and was just expanded for use at several other airports across Canada as well.

You can download the app here.

Use YYZ Express to cut the line at airport security

Just like the app for fast-tracking your way through US customs, YYZ Express is an online option available to many travellers at Pearson Airport that can save you time at airport security.

The system, first introduced in late 2022, gives travellers the option to book an appointment at security during some of the busiest times of day for both Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. You can book up to 72 hours before your flight, but this isn't an option for you if you're travelling to the US.

Pearson told Narcity roughly 50,000 YYZ Express appointments have been booked so far and the system was expanded last month due to demand, meaning more travellers can use it during peak times.

You can check out YYZ Express here.

Pearson Airport's new artificial intelligence technology

On top of all of these changes, Pearson Airport is also the first in Canada to be testing out new artificial intelligence (AI) technology at airport security.

The HEXWAVE technology is used to detect dangerous or prohibited items, and Pearson just recently signed a letter of intent to purchase the tech from the company that created it, so they can keep testing it out.

This is one of two new steps into AI at Pearson, as Air Canada is also testing out facial recognition technology — but you can decide whether or not you're comfortable with that as the process is completely optional.

Stuart McGinn
Ontario Editor
Stuart McGinn is Narcity’s Ontario Editor and focuses mainly on covering major provincial and local news stories across the province. Stuart is from Ottawa and is now based in Toronto.
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