Crews working '24/7, non-stop' on Pearson runway construction amid ongoing flight delays

Passengers are sharing stories about long lines and lengthy delays. The Greater Toronto Airports Authority says construction is expected to wrap up on May 16.

Passengers reporting long lines, delays — but construction expected to wrap up on May 16

Customers have been sharing stories of lengthy delays and missed flights amid ongoing runway construction at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Earlier this month, Ariel Vinizki was heading from Los Angeles to Toronto with his family — and ended up circling the runway at Pearson airport for around half an hour.

The reason? The ongoing construction on the airport's longest runway.

"Once we landed, there was a bit of a delay getting to a gate, but we thought — finally, we're at Pearson," Vinizki said on CBC's Metro Morning.

But the family of three, including Vinizki's pregnant wife and three-year-old son, ended up waiting another 40 minutes just to get into customs, after entering a "chaotic scene" with hundreds of people lined up.

Numerous customers have reported lengthy delays in recent weeks, and with construction that started at the end of March scheduled to last another eight days, these kinds of frustrating passenger experiences could continue a little longer. 

However, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority said crews are working around the clock to finish this "really significant undertaking."

A busy day at Pearson airport in April amid hundreds of flight cancellations. (CBC/Trevor Dunn)

Runway rehabilitation planning started 2 years ago 

Hillary Marshall, vice president of Stakeholder Relations and Communications for the GTAA, said planning started two years ago for the construction and rehabilitation of the runway.

"It's the biggest runway in the country — the busiest runway in the country — and it handles 45 per cent of all the air traffic coming into the airport," she added.

Marshall said the planning involved looking at how other large international airports have handled runway construction in the past. 

Some of the key considerations, she said, included ensuring the project was safe, and having it done before the busy summer flight season begins.

"The construction crews are working 24/7, non-stop, to get it done," she said.

The GTAA expects construction to finish on time on May 16. A second phase of rebuilding the runway is expected to start in October.