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Canada’s Worst Airports

Pearson Airport Pearson International Airport / Photo By Alana Morgan

We can choose which airlines we fly with but we have little choice when it comes to the airports that we travel through, and — as every seasoned traveler knows — airports vary widely in efficiency, service, and facilities.

At FlightNetwork.com, we believe that airports are key to ensuring that our customers have fantastic vacations, successful business trips, and make it to important events on time. So, every year we survey Canadians to find out which airports have been providing travellers with the worst experiences, which airport qualities matter most to travellers, and which airports have improved the most in the past year.

Here are the highlights from this year’s poll:

1) Pearson International Airport is Still’the Worst’

71.3% of respondents said that Toronto’s Pearson International Airport was ‘the worst’ high traffic airport in Canada…again.

Montreal’s Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport came a distant second, receiving 12.8% of “the worst” votes, followed by Vancouver International Airport with 8.3%.

Statistics can, however, be misleading. Since Pearson serves more customers than any other airport in Canada (nearly twice as many as the second busiest airport, Vancouver International), it’s the airport where the largest number of people are likely to have a bad experience.

FlightNetwork.com CEO Naman Budhdeo noted, “By virtue of being the busiest and largest airport in Canada, it (Pearson) is always going to have the most complaints.”

Vancouver Airport Vancouver International Airport / Photo By Leigh McAdam

2) Pearson Was, Paradoxically, Also the Most Improved Airport

On the flip side, because of the installation of self-serve border clearance for Canadian citizens, a slew of new dining options, and table-top iPads for ordering food and tracking flights, nearly half of respondents (49.1%) voted Pearson the ‘most improved’ airport in Canada.

Vancouver International Airport with its new high-speed baggage service was ranked the second most improved (19.8%) and Pierre Elliot Trudeau was third (12.9%).

3) Time = Everything

Long check-in lines were travellers’ biggest pet peeve receiving 40.2% of the vote, followed by delays clearing security with 28.5%. This is no surprise to anyone who has stood in line, afraid that they were going to miss their flight, while watching a security guard run an old woman’s purse back and forth through the x-ray machine half a dozen  times.

Pearson iPads New Pearson International Airport iPads / Photo By Matt Gibson

Delays on the way to flights were followed closely by delays leaving the airport, with long waits for baggage receiving 14.8% of votes.

4) All Improvements Aren’t Equal

The only airport improvement that all demographics (27% of men and 27.3% of women of all ages) seemed to agree on was self-serve border clearance because, let’s be honest, when you’re forced to choose between personal checks at our international borders and catching the third period of the Leafs game, you realize what’s really important in life.

Retirees (36.8%) and women (31.2%) appreciated high-speed baggage systems, while 27.7% of men said they appreciated new “food concepts” and 33.8% of 18 to 24 year-olds thought table top iPads were ‘super awesome.’

Our conclusion? If we can’t eat sushi-cheeseburgers or play Angry Birds, our top priority is getting out of the airport as fast as possible.

Do you think this survey hit the mark? Is Pearson really the worst airport in Canada?

How do you think airports could improve? 

Let us know in comments below!

About the Author: Matt Gibson

Matt Gibson is the Let's Roll blog manager. He also writes for the Huffington Post, About.com, and his own adventure travel blog.

  • Leigh

    The one thing I do appreciate in every Canadian airport I have visited is free WiFI. You don’t always get that in the US and it certainly hasn’t been the case in any airport I’ve been to in Europe.
    Toronto may have the largest loads but it also feels like it’s in permanent construction mode and isn’t very welcoming. Plus I always plan on it being an hour to get my bag – and it’s a bonus if it’s faster.

  • yvonne Mawbey

    When I flew from Sydney Australia on flight AC 34 on 23rd May, Australian time the flight stopped at Vancouverfor refueling. The passengers going onto Toronto were not given one word of advice of what they were to do at Vancouver airport, nor what time the flight to Toronto would leave. I knew that I had to go through customs and pick my baggage up from the carosel and then check in through air Canada for the filight onto Toronto. Other people who had not done the flight before did not know. Even though I knew what to do, I oculd not find my luggage at the carosel and by the time I reported it missing and filled in the paperwork I had missed the flight. Fortunately there was room for me on the next flight.
    This was very upsetting that people were not told what to do. I thought we were going onto Toronto on the same plane so I do not know why our baggage was taken off and we had to get it our selves from the carosel. It seems pointless that it be checked through twice, once at sydney and then again at Vancouver when it was still in transit.

    This is inefficient and caused extra stress for the travellers.
    Fortunately my baggage was found and delivered to me next day forwhich I am very grateful.
    In future could information be given to the passengers that are travelling on to Toronto before getting off at Vancouver please.

  • Matt Gibson

    Agreed. Free WIFI is one of the most important services an airport can offer, and, although most airports in Canada have it, it’s not always easy to find abroad.

  • Matt Gibson

    Wow Yvonne, that’s awful! It sounds like it was the airline’s fault as much as the airport’s, but still…

  • tom

    We have to increase Customer service all over. Passenger information, Food areas. Ways of getting to and from Airports. Buses taxi and limos. Communication from Airlines and Working personal at air ports should all work as a team. This will not only help passengers. It will also help security in the airport. Awareness will increase in all levels. Signage mapping out where everything is needs to be eye level and more often. I hear so many people say I never seen any signs. Last a few people that can speak many languages does help a lot.Increase customer services and the rest will follow.

  • Tim

    Flying to the USA from Nova Scotia through Montreal is the worst experience going (next to going through security over and over again). After disembarking in Montreal, you have to walk/run a mile to get to US destinations. When you finally get there (customs) there usually are large lineups, and if your connections schedule is tight, it’s often a panic situation. I try to avoid Montreal and go through Toronto when possible.

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  • Leigh

    The one thing I do appreciate in every Canadian airport I have visited is free WiFI. You don’t always get that in the US and it certainly hasn’t been the case in any airport I’ve been to in Europe.
    Toronto may have the largest loads but it also feels like it’s in permanent construction mode and isn’t very welcoming. Plus I always plan on it being an hour to get my bag – and it’s a bonus if it’s faster.

  • yvonne Mawbey

    When I flew from Sydney Australia on flight AC 34 on 23rd May, Australian time the flight stopped at Vancouverfor refueling. The passengers going onto Toronto were not given one word of advice of what they were to do at Vancouver airport, nor what time the flight to Toronto would leave. I knew that I had to go through customs and pick my baggage up from the carosel and then check in through air Canada for the filight onto Toronto. Other people who had not done the flight before did not know. Even though I knew what to do, I oculd not find my luggage at the carosel and by the time I reported it missing and filled in the paperwork I had missed the flight. Fortunately there was room for me on the next flight.
    This was very upsetting that people were not told what to do. I thought we were going onto Toronto on the same plane so I do not know why our baggage was taken off and we had to get it our selves from the carosel. It seems pointless that it be checked through twice, once at sydney and then again at Vancouver when it was still in transit.

    This is inefficient and caused extra stress for the travellers.
    Fortunately my baggage was found and delivered to me next day forwhich I am very grateful.
    In future could information be given to the passengers that are travelling on to Toronto before getting off at Vancouver please.

  • Matt Gibson

    Agreed. Free WIFI is one of the most important services an airport can offer, and, although most airports in Canada have it, it’s not always easy to find abroad.

  • Matt Gibson

    Wow Yvonne, that’s awful! It sounds like it was the airline’s fault as much as the airport’s, but still…

  • tom

    We have to increase Customer service all over. Passenger information, Food areas. Ways of getting to and from Airports. Buses taxi and limos. Communication from Airlines and Working personal at air ports should all work as a team. This will not only help passengers. It will also help security in the airport. Awareness will increase in all levels. Signage mapping out where everything is needs to be eye level and more often. I hear so many people say I never seen any signs. Last a few people that can speak many languages does help a lot.Increase customer services and the rest will follow.

  • Tim

    Flying to the USA from Nova Scotia through Montreal is the worst experience going (next to going through security over and over again). After disembarking in Montreal, you have to walk/run a mile to get to US destinations. When you finally get there (customs) there usually are large lineups, and if your connections schedule is tight, it’s often a panic situation. I try to avoid Montreal and go through Toronto when possible.

  • Page: (6 Total)