New restrictions on U.S.-bound flights caused “very significant” delays and headaches for travellers at Canada’s busiest airport Sunday.
New regulations imposed after an apparent terror attack was thwarted on Christmas Day have led to “a tough day” at Pearson International Airport, west of Toronto, a spokeswoman said.
Trish Krale, with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, said there were “very significant delays” mostly felt by people flying to the U.S.
A 23-year-old Nigerian man, who claimed ties to al-Qaida, was charged Saturday with trying to destroy a Detroit-bound airliner.
Many U.S.-bound flights were delayed by at least one or two hours and in some cases up to four or five hours.
Among the stricter regulations are passengers are to have nothing on the lap and no moving around the flight cabin in the final hour before landing and only one carry-on is bag allowed.
“If possible if people can even reduce that to zero that would be a lot easier,” Krale said.
“Most of the delays are occurring — or some of the delays are occurring — because passengers come to the airport and they don’t know that so then they’re having to shuffle their baggage around.”
More than 160 flights were listed as cancelled as of 10 p.m. Sunday evening, which accounts for almost 15 per cent of the total daily flights at Pearson.
Jack Gardiner was one of the unlucky ones: he waited in line for hours to board a flight with his family to New York only to find it had been cancelled.
“It’s absolute bedlam in here,” he told the Toronto Star.
“And in true Canadian fashion, no one is coming and telling you what’s going on, who’s doing what, what your expectations are.”
Allan Bowditch, who arrived at the airport with his wife Gillian three hours before their flight to Wales, said the delays were unlike anything he’d seen in 40 years of flying.
“I think everybody appreciates there needs to be extra security, but not to the point where you grind the whole system to paralysis,” he told the Star.
There were also reports of delays in Montreal and Vancouver.
Air Canada released a statement Sunday afternoon saying long waits for security clearance at Canadian airports is forcing the cancellations of some short-haul Air Canada and Jazz flights to the U.S.
“These cancellations will be implemented primarily on short-haul transborder routes with multiple daily flights between Toronto and the north-east U.S.,” the statement said.
“Air Canada plans to consolidate affected flights and operate larger aircraft on these routes in order to minimize the impact on passengers.”
Officials were asking travellers to leave plenty of extra time, to check their flight status before leaving home and to be patient.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to light an explosive on a Northwest Airlines flight as it was about to land in Detroit after a flight from Amsterdam, but other passengers overpowered him.
The plane was in Canadian airspace at the time of the incident, over southwest Ontario, the Toronto Star reported Sunday. Once Flight 253 crossed the Atlantic, its final course to Detroit was almost exclusively over Quebec and Ontario, the Star reported.
A day after Friday’s incident, the federal government ordered Transport Canada and the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority to assume a heightened state of vigilance.
Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan and Transport Minister John Baird announced the new steps in a joint statement this weekend. Van Loan said he had spoken with U.S. Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Jane Lute regarding the incident.