Pearson airport to change extreme weather protocol
Move comes after January 'ground stop' left passengers stranded, confused
Canada's busiest airport is changing how it deals with extreme winter weather and other disruptions after a deep freeze
earlier this year triggered a partial shutdown that slowed travel for days.
The Greater Toronto Airport Authority issued a dozen recommendations Thursday to improve operations at Pearson
International Airport after reviewing the January incident, which prevented North American flights from landing for more than eight hours. You can read the full report in the document embedded at the bottom of this story.
"The unusual combination of winter weather conditions experienced at Toronto Pearson between January 5 and 9, 2014 caused numerous unforeseen challenges that significantly inconvenienced many passengers and their families," Vijay Kanwar, chair of the agency's board of directors, wrote in the report.
"The goal of our review is to improve the service we offer our visitors," he said. "We can do so by improving our operations during unusual winter weather to prevent and mitigate the impacts of disruptions, where possible."
"When disruptions do occur, we will do a better job of communicating with the public; we will treat our passengers with a
high standard of customer service."
Among the recommendations:
- The GTAA should develop and publish "guidelines for responding to the needs of passengers during irregular operations," something the agency plans to achieve by September.
- A web page be created to update travellers during disruptions.
- Boost the airport's Wi-Fi and cellphone service capacity.
- A Pearson mobile app be created to provide instant updates for travellers.
- The airport should buy more equipment, proactively bring out warming stations to keep crew members warm and increase snow and ice removal to give planes better access to gates.
Some improvements have already been made and others could take effect as early as July, the agency said. It plans to give a progress update in November.
Pearson declared a so-called "ground stop" on Jan. 7 after wind chill readings hovered around the -40 C mark, causing hundreds of flights to be cancelled.
Thousands of passengers slept at the airport and there were mountains of luggage waiting for pick-up.
The GTAA said at the time that the decision was made because of how the cold was affecting equipment and to minimize time outdoors for employees.
It later apologized for the delays.