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Airport delays causing headaches for travellers in Calgary

Canadian airports are feeling the pinch of staffing shortages as air travel ramps up across the country.

Toronto's Pearson International Airport is being hit the hardest, but travellers at YYC Calgary International Airport say delays aren't exclusive to Canada's busiest airport.

"I don't go to Toronto a lot, but I've noticed a fair amount of delays here," said Michael McGoldrick, who frequently flies for work.

"Flights are picking up again, tourism, all that has been picking up for a while. There are a lot of delays. I've noticed delays on my flights, and I've missed a couple of flights because of it."

Last week, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada announced that the restrictions at the border would be extended until at least June 30.

That news sparked concern from some in the industry, including Monette Pasher, the interim president of the Canadian Airports Council.

"We've gotten back to regular travel volumes -- we're at 70 per cent now. It's very difficult to fulfill these public health restrictions," Pasher told CTV's Your Morning on Wednesday.

"We could manage it when we were in the middle of the pandemic, and there weren't many people moving, but now we've turned the corner and we really do need to move forward."

Pasher is also calling on Ottawa to lift the vaccine mandate for federally regulated employees to help address the staffing shortages affecting everything from baggage handlers to airport security workers.

With demand for air travel taking off, those staffing challenges are front and centre in the form of long lines and extended wait times for anyone looking to catch a flight.

"The lines are crazy. You have to get here three hours early just to get through security on time," said Jodi Flodstedt, who was looking to catch a flight out of Calgary Thursday morning.

"We had a schedule change, so rather than sitting an hour in Vancouver, we're now sitting there for four-and-a-half hours."

Still, Flodstedt is in good spirits.

"I think we'll just need to be grateful that we get to go anywhere and keep it in perspective and just be grateful. First-world problems."

But it's a different story for others who may have missed a connecting flight.

In a statement sent to CTV News, Lori DeLuca from The Calgary Airport Authority says YYC Calgary International Airport is not experiencing staffing shortages resulting in the lengthy security screening wait times or arrival processing times seen in Toronto.

"However, some guests may be experience delays for a variety of reasons, such as passenger volume, weather, maintenance, or connections from other airports," she said.

"We are certainly monitoring the situation as the number of passengers increases and we continue to work with all our partners – from airlines to airports to security screeners to border agents and government officials – so we can jointly deliver a smooth, efficient experience for travellers."Several airlines in the United States and Europe have reduced summer capacity to deal with staffing constraints."

The Canadian federal government has no plans to force airlines to reduce their flights.

"A few days ago, I told you we added 450 employees to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA). That number has now gone up to 865 employees," said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.

"Anyone who understands the complexities of hiring 865 people in such a short time knows that this was a major achievement, and I want to thank CATSA for doing so. This is going to add a tremendous amount of resources to help CATSA."

In a statement sent to CTV News by Air Canada, they acknowledge airport and airline operations have been impacted by staffing issues from government third-party providers.

"Long processing times at airports and other restrictions arising from the issues with these third-party providers have resulted in flight delays and in some instances cancellations," said the statement.  

"These can have knock-on effects not only for our customers, but can also impact our employee resources and operations. For example, if an aircraft is held at a gate longer than expected or a flight is suddenly forced to cancel, that can affect the schedules of crews and the ground staff servicing the aircraft, disrupting subsequent flights.

"These issues are certainly challenging for our employees, but they are very professional and working extremely hard and we are now successfully moving more than 100,000 customers per day.

"That said, our overall daily flight completion, and Air Canada has approximately 1,000 flights a day, remains very high."

As for any COVID-related travel restrictions and mandates, Ottawa reviews the situation monthly.

Any potential revisions to the current policies would not come into play until the beginning of July.

With files from CTV News Toronto and The Canadian Press Top Stories

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