Travellers are being told to expect delays at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport as Canada reopens its border to fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents on Monday.
Robin Smith, spokesperson for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, said in a statement to CBC News on Sunday that travellers should pack some patience before they head to the airport because the easing of restrictions could mean more people at Pearson.
“With the re-opening of the border for non-essential travel by fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents on August 9, we are anticipating interest in air travel to increase,” Smith said in the statement.
“The Greater Toronto Airports Authority is working closely with airlines and government agencies to find every efficiency possible, but it may take longer to pass through the airport due to additional health screenings for COVID-19.”
As of midnight Sunday night, non-essential U.S. travellers who have had a full course of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine were once again allowed on Canadian soil.
To be eligible, travellers must live in the U.S., have allowed at least 14 days to pass since their last dose and show proof of a negative molecular test for COVID-19 that’s no more than 72 hours old.
ArriveCAN app critical part of border crossing
They are also required to use the ArriveCAN app or online web portal to upload their vaccination details.
Passengers scheduled to depart on domestic flights at Pearson are urged to arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes before their flight time.
Passengers scheduled to depart on international flights at Pearson are urged to arrive at least three hours in advance.
Smith said arriving international passengers should be prepared to wait three hours or more to complete the arrivals process due to COVID-19 screening requirements, depending on their circumstances.
“The entire airport community is working together to ensure that passenger and employee health and safety remain the top priority,” Smith said.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s senior director of international policy Mark Agnew calls the border reopening a “welcome first step” but says most of the summer travel season has already passed by.
No ‘tsunami of visitors’ yet
Agnew says the Chamber is concerned about delays in entry as people will be reaching for their cell phones for their proof of vaccination while fumbling with other documents.
“You could have people who are fiddling around, trying to load it up on the spot,” he said. “You don’t want to see those delays that people experience because that’s going to cause a backlog for everyone else who wants to get into the country.”
He also says there are still a number of requirements that need to be met before Americans are allowed entry. That includes proof of a negative COVID-19 test done before arriving at the point of entry, and a backup quarantine plan just in case.
“By no means is it going to be a sort of quick 25 seconds for travellers,” Agnew said.
Noting that other foreign nationals won’t be permitted entry until September, he said it’s an “incremental step in the right direction,” but there’s still a long way to go before it’s business as usual.
Niagara Falls mayor Jim Diodati hopes the reopened border can boost the city’s tourism industry, which he says is “right up there with oxygen in terms of importance.”
American citizens represent 25 per cent of tourists the city gets per year, Diodati said. Without their visits, it’s been “a devastating effect on top of an already terribly devastating tourist season.”
He also believes most visitors for now will be Americans who own property in Canada or have relatives in the country.
“I don’t expect a tsunami of visitors to our borders yet,” Diodati said.