Federal budget aims for a smoother passenger experience, but 'devil is in the details'
People make their way through Pearson Airport in Mississauga, Ont., on Tuesday, March 14, 2023. The federal budget has air travel on the radar, laying out plans to speed up airport security screening and reduce flight delays.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, March 29, 2023 2:43PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 29, 2023 2:43PM EDT
MONTREAL - The federal government has air travel on its radar after laying out plans in its budget to speed up airport security screening and reduce flight delays.
Tabled Tuesday by the Liberals following a year of travel turmoil, the budget promises $1.8 billion over five years for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) to improve passenger screening and strengthen security measures at airports.
It also proposes a new rule requiring airlines and airports to share and report data as a way to cut delays and bolster co-ordination within the industry.
Monette Pasher, head of the Canadian Airports Council, said the group is encouraged by what she called “incremental” steps to help the sector and improve the passenger experience.
“Airports across the country welcome these new measures,” she said in a statement. “However, there is still more work ahead to get airports fully down the runway to recovery.”
Sylvie De Bellefeuille, a lawyer with the advocacy group Option consommateurs, said “the devil is in the details” on data sharing, including the degree of public access and timely reporting.
“It really depends on what they will have to provide,” she said.
Currently, airlines share information on daily flight schedules and airplane types with airports.
“The airlines are basically saying that there's a need to keep the passenger count confidential for commercial reasons,” said John Gradek, who teaches aviation management at McGill University.
“But the airports really need that information in order for them to basically staff their various functions properly ... Flight information is interesting, but it's really more about passengers going through the building and making sure you've got enough counter staff or enough baggage staff or enough CATSA or CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) staff,” he said.
The budget measures come after Transport Minister Omar Alghabra pledged to overhaul the country's passenger rights charter in January following chaotic travel seasons over the summer and winter holidays brought on by soaring demand and poor weather.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 29, 2023.