Passengers ranked Toronto’s Pearson as one of the worst airports in North America, according to a new study

If you’ve seen the chaotic formations, baggage piles, and viral tweets this summer, it might not be surprising: Our airport isn’t exactly crowd-pleasing.

A customer satisfaction study released Wednesday by a US research firm ranked Toronto’s Pearson International Airport 16th out of 20 major airports in North America.

The study looked at six factors, ranked in order of importance: building facilities, airport arrival/departure, baggage claim, security screening, check-in/check-in baggage, food and beverage and retail.

“They (Pearson) have made an incredible leap in passenger volume. And that has a direct impact on passenger satisfaction,” said study author Michael Taylor, head of travel intelligence at J.D. Power, a US-based research and advisory firm.

Pearson is ranked 15th in the category of “huge” airports, with a total score of 755 out of a possible 1,000 points, behind Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport at 14, and back to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in first place. He got 800 points.

Pearson ended up ahead of some well-known American travel hubs such as Logan International in Boston, Los Angeles International, O’Hare International in Chicago and Newark, and Liberty International in New Jersey.

Other Canadian airports in the smaller categories also underperformed in the global rankings.

The surge in travelers as the economy reopens from COVID-19 restrictions has hit airports hard across the continent, Taylor said, adding that Pearson has experienced less relative declines than most.

“None of the giant airports improved their scores from last year. San Francisco stayed put, but everyone else was negative double digits,” Taylor said. Miami was out 58 points. Toronto was 25 points away from last year.”

A spokesperson for Greater Toronto Airports, which operates Pearson, dismissed the J.D. Power study, saying the sample size was too small to be statistically significant.

JD Power polled 637 Toronto Pearson passengers only for the survey. Tori Gass, a spokesperson for GTAA, said that when compared to the millions of passengers who traveled through our doors, this equates to 0.003 percent of all passengers. “We believe that this sample size is too small to draw any relevant conclusions.”

Gass also said it wasn’t fair to compare Canadian and US airports due to the longer and more extensive closures and COVID-related safety protocols in Canada than south of the border.

Since the COVID protocols and restrictions were different between Canada and the United States, this may not be an accurate comparison. “Pearson has quickly gone from one of the world’s most closed major airports to one of our busiest,” said Gass.

The Air Canada National Board agreed that COVID restrictions played a role in the airport’s chaos, and contributed to Pearson’s low rating.

While these results are disappointing, they are not surprising. Airports are the responsibility of the federal government, and the government’s lack of resources at airports, along with its persistence with restrictions that are no longer effective in the pandemic era, has resulted in a significant backlog at some of Canada’s largest airports, NACC President Jeff Morrison said in a written agreement.

Morrison argued that COVID restrictions, including the use of the ArriveCan app that arriving passengers must fill out before landing, are more than just a nuisance to passengers.

“It also hinders the Canadian economy’s recovery from the pandemic, because air transport is a critical economic driver,” Morrison said.

Former NHL star Ryan Whitney referred to Pearson as the worst airport on the planet in a video that went viral after he posted it on Twitter this summer.

“This is the worst airport on earth. I tell you, there is no other airport like this,” Whitney said angrily in a video detailing his derailed flight from Edmonton to Boston via Toronto.

Whitney’s June video came at the height of Pearson’s chaos, when passengers complained about everything from long customs queues to long wait times on the runways and lost baggage.

Taylor said one factor that has hurt airports across the board over the past year is that airlines have been crowding passengers on fewer flights. This means that airports have seen larger increases than they would otherwise.

“Everyone has reduced their flight schedules, so they have fewer planes with a higher percentage of people on board. It just means that you’re going to focus your operations in less space and time, and put more people in the facility,” Taylor said.

In the long run, Pearson said, Pearson suffers from the same problems as some of the major US airports, including Boston’s Logan International Airport and Chicago’s O’Hare: poor road access, and an increase in passenger volume far beyond what it was designed for.

“O’Hare was a great idea at the time, but it has grown out of space. The same thing is happening at Pearson. It might have been cool 25 years ago, but it’s totally irrelevant today,” Taylor said.

However, GTAA’s Jass referred to ACI’s Global Airport Service Quality Program. in the ACI ratings? Pearson is number one in its class.

“ACI is the global trade representative for the world’s airports, and our recognition as the “Best Large Airport in North America serving more than 40 million passengers” for the fifth year in a row is an indication of our airport’s performance on the global stage,” Gas said.

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