The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) has been busy over the past few months updating Pearson International Airport and implementing new protocols keeping traveller safety top of mind post COVID-19. Thanks to an invite from Delta, KLM and Air France, our content Marketing Manager, Ryan Adelson, had the opportunity to receive a guided tour from airport personnel to uncover what has changed. She has written the below account of what she learned during her visit.
Entering the Airport
The first notable change occurs before you step foot into the terminal. Anyone not travelling or at the airport for official business is not allowed inside and there are personnel at the doors to enforce this.
Additionally, those who do go inside must be wearing a face covering at all times, including all airport employees. If you not have a face covering, there are vending machines in the building attached to the parking lot that sells them or a personnel will direct you to the nearest shop within the terminal to purchase one.
What is acceptable as a face covering in the airport?*
- Non-medical mask
- Cloth face coverings
*This is only for the airport, each airline has their own regulations
450 hand sanitization stations have also been installed in Terminals 1 and 3.
Once inside the terminal, each airline has set up their check-in kiosks to promote social distancing. For some airlines this means turning off every other screen, others have physically moved the kiosks. In terms of the kiosk's technology, the GTAA is working on delivering a more touchless experience and hopes to have it implemented for all major airlines by the end of August. In terms of check-in counters, every other one is closed and the ones that are open have been outfitted with plexi-glass.
On the floor, social distancing markers have been placed wherever lines form to guide travellers on where to stand as they wait.
There is no need to arrive at the airport any earlier than usual
Our group was told that passengers should arrive at the same time as they usually would, 90 minutes to 2 hours in advance as the extra protocols are not slowing anything down. Additionally, there isn't much open at the airport that would warrant being there early - many shops and restaurants still closed.
Starting July 30th, CATSA personnel will be taking passengers temperatures before they enter the security line. From there, boarding card scans are now self-service and as all other lines in the airport, physical distancing is managed through floor markers and signage. Additionally, their is hand sanitizer available before and after security.
Usually, past security you are greeted with the hustle and bustle of people eating and shopping in the terminal. This is starting to pick back up but be aware that it is a lot quieter now as not everything is open. Something else to note, sections of the terminal have been roped off as there simply isn't a need for them.
What was open in T1?
- Tim Hortons
- Several food options
- The iStore
- MAC Cosmetics
What was open in T3?
- Tim Hortons
- Duty Free
- A bar
Lounges at Pearson are currently closed, however, they are expected to reopen at the end of July. I received a sneak peak of the Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge in Terminal one and had the opportunity to see the changes made. These changes included seating being removed to allow for proper spacing between guests and QR codes on every table to allow for touch less service. The buffets we've become accustomed to in lounges are no more and instead, guests are able to order what they want from their phones and receive their order within minutes. I except there will be similar changes in the other lounges as they reopen.
At the Gate
Walking through the terminal, a noticeable change is the blocking of every other chair in the gate areas to encourage social distancing. Floor decals have also been placed by the gates to encourage social distancing when boarding. The GTAA has started rolling out plexi-glass barriers at gate desk which are currently being installed on a rolling basis, they expect to have them all in by August.
When arriving from an international destination, passengers are now required to fill out a health form from the Public Health Agency of Canada as well as a customs form. The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the GTAA are encouraging passengers to download the ArriveCan App to facilitate this process.
The use of the app will help:
- provide mandatory information that is required for entry into Canada
- avoid lineups and reduce points of contact at the border
- provide updates on your quarantine compliance and the development of any symptoms during the 14 days after arriving in Canada
If you are arriving to Pearson on a domestic flight, no actions need to be taken upon arrival. At the baggage claim you'll find markers to encourage social distancing when collecting luggage.
At this time, friends and family are not allowed into the terminal to greet arriving passengers.
A large change at the airport that happens behind the scenes at Pearson airport are its new cleaning protocols. These include:
- An air quality monitoring station, which provides information on each terminal's air quality and flow.
- In the check-in area, cleaners are assigned to clean the check-in counters and baggage drops throughout the day. Additionally, baggage carts are sanitized before each use.
- At security, lanes are cleaned 3 times a day and bin cleaning is available after every use.
- The terminal area after security is cleaned using fogging technology multiple times a day, as well as light dusting and wiping down, with a deep clean being done every night.
- Autonomous cleaners are present throughout the terminal to keep floors clean and disinfected.
It was great to be back at Pearson International Airport after not being there since March, when I returned from my last trip. A lot has changed. The airport was noticeably quiet, which is to be expected as there has been a significant drop in flights since this all began. However, it was hopeful to hear from GTAA staff that numbers are picking back up again, the woman who guided us through the airport mentioned that some flights have been full. When we finished our tour and went back to the KLM desk, there was a flight boarding and it was great to see the activity in the terminal.
I visited the airport two weeks in a row and noticed an uptick in people the second week from the week before. Walking through the airport, I couldn't get over how clean it looked, I think the GTAA are doing a phenomenal job at keeping it a clean and safe environment for passengers and employees -- hand sanitization stations wherever I looked was definitely a nice touch!