‘Angry’ Canadians putting off travel plans amid airport turbulence, poll finds

The verdict is in: the majority of Canadians believe the scenes unfolding at Canada’s airports are a national embarrassment, and in some cases are so bad that many won’t go near an airport at all until the turbulence improves.

New polling about the state of delays and headaches for travellers at Canada’s major hubs conducted by research group Ipsos suggests that as many as 70 per cent of Canadians feel we should be ashamed on the global stage about our airport fiasco, though only one in 20 say they have been affected by delays.

“Air Canada really just the TTC with wings at this point,” Twitter user @TheSlowBurn wrote Sunday. Another user, @AshleyAKeller, tweeted she has “never seen an airport as bad as Toronto Pearson.”

The perception of Canada’s airports as sluggish has now transcended this country’s borders: on Saturday, the New York Times published a piece on the delays titled “Turbulence on the Ground at Toronto’s Pearson Airport.”

According to the Ipsos poll, 39 per cent believe the federal government, airlines, airports and Canadian travellers are all to blame for the problems plaguing our airports, which points to “an appreciation that this is a complicated issue,” said Sean Simpson, senior vice-president, Ipsos public affairs.

Canadians are saying that everyone at each of these levels needs to work together and sort out the issues, Simpson added. “Ultimately, it’s different groups that are responsible for each aspect” of the delays, he said, meaning issues are compounding on each other.

“Deficiency in one area seems to negatively impact another area — it’s all worse as a result.”

Delays seem to be pushing some away from flying at all: roughly 58 per cent are delaying or cancelling their travel plans until the situation at airports improves, the poll shows.

Some people do place blame for the country’s airport situation squarely on one entity. Twenty-two per cent of respondents feel it’s the federal government’s fault, while 18 per cent feel it’s the fault of the airlines. Just 13 per cent blame airports directly.

Fifty-seven per cent of poll respondents believe Canada is underperforming at delivering travel services compared to its peer countries, and just over a third of Canadians feel not enough is being done by the federal government or airlines themselves to address flight delays and cancellations.

Not all Canadians are so quick to agree that airports like Pearson are an embarrassment, however.

Emily Mills, founder and CEO of networking organization How She Hustles, said that despite two delays in her recent travel with her children, the situation had some silver linings and turned out “pretty positive in the end.”

While one flight doesn’t mean she necessarily disagrees with the findings of the poll, Mills said customer service worked quickly to help her out, providing food vouchers, sorting out boarding passes and helping the kids find somewhere to play. Other travellers also showed her some care, she added: a stranger named Mike treated Mills and her family to Starbucks when he heard about the family’s whirlwind morning.

“I know many folks are under pressure, but kindness in airports goes a long way,” she said.

Simpson believes the results of the polling show Canadians are feeling “a little bit angry” right now, given that it has been more than two years since many have been able to hop on a plane for a getaway.

Travellers, he said, are “stuck between a rock and a hard place,” and can either choose to arrive several hours early for their flights or cancel yet another vacation.

The polling suggests a perception that Canada’s public services are broken, Simpson said. “There are so many problems that are surfacing now.”

Where Canadian opinion seems split is on whether these delays will be temporary, or if they will persist past the summer months.

Around 55 per cent of respondents believe this is a brief glitch, the polling shows, while 45 per cent expect these issues will continue into the fall.

The survey was conducted July 12 to 13 and surveyed 1,001 Canadians over the age of 18. The poll is accurate +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Jenna Moon is a Toronto-based business reporter, focused on personal finance and affordability. Follow her on Twitter: @_jennamoon

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