Wings Magazine

GTAA boss admits ‘we dropped the ball’: Pearson chaos

Jan. 10, 2014, Toronto - Greater Toronto Airport Authority CEO Howard Eng apologized today to passengers, admitting airport officials did a poor job Tuesday morning when Canada's largest airport was shut down to arriving flights, leaving passengers stranded for hours.

January 10, 2014  By CBC News

"I think we dropped the ball and we'll fix it," Eng said on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "I apologize to all the passengers that were affected and the frustration they encountered."


Some 600 flights were cancelled Tuesday when temperatures in the –25 C
range caused equipment problems and raised safety concerns for ground



The weather led to long delays in processing incoming flights. The
backlog quickly caused a traffic jam on the tarmac and a shortage of
gate space.


Passengers sat in planes for hours — up to five hours in some cases —
after flights landed. To clear the backlog the airport ordered a ground
stop, essentially shutting down Canada's largest airport to arriving
flights. That had a cascading effect, leaving some passengers stranded
days later.


When passengers did eventually deplane, many waited hours for luggage
to arrive. Some passengers were seen sleeping on the airport floor as
unclaimed luggage piled up.

Eng and airport officials came under fire for a lack of communication
about the delays. Eng told Galloway he was managing the crisis by phone
from Edmonton, where he was on a business trip.


"I was kept informed with staff and on the phone with them as the crisis unfolded."


When asked why he didn't speak publicly about the crisis until two
days after it happened, Eng said his primary focus was to "stabilize"
the situation at the airport.


"We will revamp our communication procedure and we'll do better next time," he said.


Eng said he approved the decision to call the ground stop, which he
said was made with input from the airlines and Nav Canada, which
oversees air traffic control.


A common complaint from passengers on Tuesday was a lack of staff to
provide updates about their flights upon arriving at Pearson.


Galloway asked Eng why more staff weren't working when the weather forecast called for extreme cold temperatures.


"The volume of demand was above what was expected. There's no excuse," he said.


Eng mentioned the GTAA will conduct a "no-holds-barred" review with
its staff and the airlines on how the situation was handled and how to
prevent it from happening again.


"We will work with all our partners to improve the process," he said.


He said GTAA staff are helping passengers rebook their flights, and move on to their destinations.


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