UPDATE: CATSA has responded to concerns from the Grande Prairie Airport that there is not enough staff to handle additional flights and security measures. In a written statement, it notes that there is only one screening line at the Grande Prairie Airport’s security checkpoint.
“At times, there are periods where the passenger volume exceeds the capacity of the checkpoint. The checkpoint is fully staffed three hours prior to any flight. We always recommend that passengers arrive at the airport early to ensure they have plenty of time to go through security.”
The corporation says it will continue to work with the airport to find solutions.
Passengers at the Grande Prairie Airport are being asked to show up 30 to 45 minutes earlier than usual for departures. CEO Brian Grant says they’ve seen longer wait times for security screening since they switched over to their winter flight schedule at the end of October.
“We have three aircraft that are on the ground all at the same time twice a day, so the security and baggage screening is backed up in some times with heavy traffic up to about an hour, an hour and 10 minutes.”
The normal wait is around 15 minutes.
The issue has been made worse by the winter weather over the past two days, and the backup caused at least one person to miss their flight Wednesday. If there are delays at a hub airport like Calgary, flights are late, and Grant says at one point there were four planes on the tarmac at once.
Weather aside, Grant places much of the blame for the backup on the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, which is responsible for screenings. He says they don’t have enough workers in place during busy times.
“We believe at the airport that it’s partially due to CATSA’s inability to keep enough people on the ground to do the security requirements that are needed. CATSA, we believe, hasn’t responded appropriately in advance to this schedule becoming effective.”
When boarding a flight out of Grande Prairie, passengers are normally asked to arrive at the airport 90 minutes before their scheduled departure. Despite that, Grant says people tend to take for granted how quick the process is in a small facility.
“People come at the last minute and they just walk through and away they go, but with this challenge it’s certainly important that people come early to make sure that they can get through.”
Grant adds that they are pressuring CATSA to change their services in Grande Prairie to make up for the current shortage, but says at this point they haven’t heard anything concrete in response. 2day FM has reached out to CATSA for comment.