Pearson Airport expecting busiest March Break travel day since pandemic began

Authorities at Toronto's Pearson International Airport have a warning for March Break travellers on what's expected to be the busiest day there since the pandemic began. "Pack your patience," they say, because some COVID-19 restrictions are still in place.

Vaccination, testing requirements still in place and will take extra time, authorities warn

Passengers line up at Pearson International Airport. The Greater Toronto Airports Authority is warning travellers to be prepared for delays and long lines on Friday as Pearson is expecting its busiest day since the COVID-19 pandemic began. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Friday is expected to be the busiest travel day at Canada's biggest airport since the pandemic began, with an estimated 85,000 people flying in and out on their March Break vacations — but authorities are warning passengers to "pack your patience."

It's the first time since 2019 the annual holiday will happen without recommendations against non-essential travel in effect, and it comes shortly after Canada lifted the requirement for returning travellers to provide a negative result on a PCR test. But the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) is warning passengers at Pearson International Airport to expect delays due to the COVID-19 measures still in place.

"It is a little bit of a different experience," said Rachel Bertone, a senior adviser with the GTAA. 

"There are going to be a little bit longer processing times because of the COVID-19 health checks. So, if you're arriving in terminal, we're asking passengers to pack your patience," she said in an interview.

What to know if you're travelling

Airport authorities recommend passengers do the following:

  • Arrive at least 90 minutes prior to departure for a domestic flight.
  • If you're travelling internationally, get to the airport three hours before takeoff. 
  • Wear masks. They're still required on flights and inside terminals and that rule will be in place even after the March 21 lifting of Ontario's mask mandate, as airport terminals fall under federal jurisdiction.
  • Make sure all family members are fully vaccinated if they're over the age of 12. 

While returning to Canada no longer requires a PCR test, travellers must produce a negative result on a rapid antigen test taken no more than 24 hours before their flight.

Destinations may have their own testing and vaccination requirements that travellers should be aware of before booking, according to Richard Smart, president and CEO of the Travel Industry Council of Ontario. 

Richard Smart, CEO of the Travel Industry Council of Ontario, says Ontario travel agents have been very busy recently as people are becoming more comfortable and travelling more. (Submitted by TICO)

Smart recommends booking your trip through an agency that is familiar with the situation and can assist with the necessary COVID-19 paperwork. 

"It is really important that consumers speak with their authorized travel agency and agent to get the information that they need to be confident and informed before they make that travel purchase," Smart said in an interview. 

"Because it's very much destination dependent."

Concerns about testing abroad

Many Canadians have already had a first-hand look at the new realities of travel. And while there are rules and regulations in place, some are concerned that they're not being taken seriously.

Before returning from a vacation in the Dominican Republic last week, Yasamin Namaki took the required rapid antigen test. The resort she was staying provided and administered it.

Yasamin Namaki, a registered practical nurse, recently travelled to the Dominican Republic. She says the rapid COVID-19 tests required to return to Canada weren't done properly. (Yasamin Namaki )

But Namaki, a registered practical nurse, says the nasal swabbing for the tests wasn't very thorough and was done by what she considered inexperienced staff in a small clinic where masks were not mandatory.

"As a nurse, I know that the swab has to go into the nose to be able to get some kind of mucus. And the lady, she just put it right at the tip of my nose. And that's it. Nothing," Namaki said in an interview.

No one on her flight time tested positive, but after several days of partying at the resort in large groups, Namaki says it's likely someone contracted COVID-19 because cases were missed.

"It just didn't look serious." 


Trevor Dunn is an award-winning journalist with CBC Toronto. Since 2008 he's covered a variety of topics, ranging from local and national politics to technology on the South American countryside. Trevor is interested in uncovering news: real estate, crime, corruption, art, sports. Reach out to him. Se habla español.


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