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MB Aug 12th, 2002 10:38 AM

Customs Line Nightmare at Toronto Airport (YYZ)
I just had the worst experience at the Toronto airport yesterday. We showed up at the airport 3 hours prior to our afternoon flight expecting that we would check in and then get some lunch while waiting for our flight. The Canada Air ticket agent advised us to eat at the first restaurant we saw because it would be the only one before we got way out to our gate U. So, we get in a long line for customs which ends up taking us 3 hours to get through the line! <BR><BR>Talking to others around me who had flown into the US on other airlines there, many felt the problem was unique to Air Canada since they had never seen anything like this when flying out on American Airlines for example. I asked our Air Canada gate agent if the line was normal & he said it was for a busy afternoon like this.<BR><BR>The most infuriating thing was the complete lack of information given to us by Canada Air. Not once did anyone warn us that the line would be in excess of one hour much less 3! So, people like us skipped lunch, babies had to skip diaper changes and nobody went to the restroom for 3 hours. Why don't they warn you going into this? Or shouldn't there be signs saying wait is over 90 minutes at this point?<BR><BR>Once you are in line, that's it. You are in the information void. You do not know if your flight is leaving ontime (without you) or if it is being delayed to accomodate you and your fellow passengers who are stuck in line. No one from Canada Air gives you flight information (nor is there a TV monitor anywhere near the line) and no one from Customs gives you information.<BR><BR>Lastly, it really seems that showing up at the airport early for your flight does not do you a bit of good. The people who carelessly show up late are escorted to the front of the line (of course they are taking a risk that they will miss their flight but I'd prefer to take that chance vs. waiting in line for 3 hours). It was so frustrating to watch the hundreds of passengers get moved ahead of me in line because they had an earlier flight, some did not wait in line at all. <BR><BR>And the whole thing was chaotic. Some passengers were left in line and others on the same flight were escorted to the front. We had a really fantastic time on our trip but the whole thing left a really bad taste in our mouth. Next time we'll probably drive. <BR><BR>On a positive note, we were impressed with the level of security there. The added security is definitely worth waiting for, but that was not the problem. <BR><BR>Have others had similar experiences? Is this unique to Air Canada at YYZ? Is the best bet to show up late and count on the escort to the front of the line?

Flynn Aug 12th, 2002 02:02 PM

Sorry to hear about your long wait. I left Toronto for NYC on Saturday Aug.10 and noticed that people who were arriving late for their flight were escorted to a shorter line. When I approached the U.S. customs line, a guard asked me what time my flight was. When I responded, he said "oh you have plenty of time (2 hours)and pointed me to the longer line. I agree-this is not right. Perhaps a letter or phone call to Air Canada might help or could this be the U.S. customs procedure?

kodi Aug 12th, 2002 03:51 PM

I , too, had to wait in a very long line recently when flying to New York. <BR>Eventually, people were escorted to the front of the line as their flight time got closer, but even so, our flight was delayed an hour, waiting for all the passengers to get through. I agree, it was very frustrating and tiring. But, in all fairness, I can't blame Air Canada. The line up was for US immigration, I suppose because so many people were travelling to the States. Checking in at Air Canada was fairly quick....then the line started at US immigration. So I would think it is their problem to be sorted out. Obviously, they need more staff.<BR>It sure doesn't make for happy travellers!!

Joan Aug 12th, 2002 04:46 PM

I flew from Philadelphia to Calgary via Toronto on Air Canada last week. There was a 50 minute layover in Toronto scheduled. Our plane into Toronto was on time, but it was impossible for us to collect our bags, go through customs, put our bags back on a conveyor belt and then go through security and get to our gate in time for our next plane. And it wasn't a particularly crowded travel day. Fortunately we were able to get on another plane 2 hours later than our scheduled one, but our friends who were meeting us in Calgary had no idea where we were when our earlier plane showed up, and we didn't. Why doesn't Air Canada realize this? I know it must happen all the time.

sam Aug 12th, 2002 05:42 PM

There were many posts on this forum stating that the Toronto airport is a nightmare. I had similar experience twice and will avoid this place even if I have to pay more to use another airport.

whatever Aug 12th, 2002 08:17 PM

Its really not Air Canada's fault, its US customs. An airline isnt responsible for customs delays. They are a totally separate entity. Customs both US and Canada are being very picky these days and I dont blame them.

John Aug 13th, 2002 07:45 AM

As this appears to be a US customs issue, I can assume that Dorval Int'l won't be any better? I am flying into YUL early September; does anyone have recent experience on Dorval queues through customs?

2whatever Aug 13th, 2002 09:58 AM

It depends on the airline in that it depends on customs at the terminal you are flying out of which is dependant on the airline (their passenger load). Perhaps that is why the original poster said that others had said they had much better experiences flying out on other airlines.

doolin Aug 14th, 2002 05:43 AM

It really is a US customs problem and they should be very well aware of what airlines are flying out of each terminal and also how many flights are going out.<BR>I would assume that there are roughly the same number of flights each day, so it shouldn't be hard for them to figure out their staffing.<BR>But as in many areas, customer satisfaction seems to have gone by the wayside, whether it be standing in line or waiting on hold on the phone. Waiting seems to be a sign of the times.<BR>

xxx Aug 14th, 2002 05:55 AM

I have to disagree with MB - I flew out of Terminal 2 last week and saw a TV Monitor in the U.S. Customs area. The wait was about 20 minutes at Customs and that again at Security. Air Canada was holding flights back for people in line. I agree with other posters that this isn't an Air Canada problem - it's US Customs, although Air Canada would be wise to take a number of steps to improve it such as more information (such as the signs MB suggests) and announcements in the Customs area. They should also urge US Customs to staff better, although that might be a naive suggestion.

Rob Aug 14th, 2002 07:36 AM

Try Montreal...YUL. I pass through one or the other US bound every month or so and Montreal always seem to be much quieter. Most likely less volume.

traveler Aug 14th, 2002 01:10 PM

We also flew out of Toronto on Sunday afternoon (8/11, same day). We got there around 4:30 for a 6:30 flight, and sailed right thru US Customs and security. We were on a much smaller, regional US airline. It must really depend on the time of day...and the airline.

duh Aug 14th, 2002 07:11 PM

I agree with traveller.<BR>It must depend on time of day and day of week. But I don't agree that it depends on which airline. It's still the same line up for US customs. It's a problem they need to work on.

Grace Aug 15th, 2002 09:59 AM

Yes, on Aug.3, 2002 we had a similar experience at Vancouver Airport, maybe worse! And we were very surprised at Canada Air agents' rude attitude! We (15 people, including a 4-year-old boy) left Edmonton to Taipei via Vancouver. When we checked in at Edmonton Airport (we left the hotel at 5:30am to take the 8:00am flight), nobody told us that the plane we would transfer at Vancouver would delay 2 hours 25 minutes(11:50 - 14:15). <BR><BR>After arriving in Vancouver Airport, we tried to ask the agent about the reason. She replied, "It's the mechanical problem. They should tell you in Edmonton." But they didn't. We all called our family in Taipei to pick us up at the original time after we had checked in. <BR><BR>My husband asked the agent if she could arrange a place where we could rest a while for the unexpected delay. She said NO directly without any apology about the delay. My husband was a little angry about her attitude and wanted to meet her supervisor. <BR><BR>Guess what? The supervisor told us, "This kind of delay is happening every day, everywhere. What do you want?" Not a word about "sorry for the inconvenience." All the friends who can understand English were too shocked to believe our ears!<BR><BR>After that we spent about 2 hours following his instruction to go to the counter to get the lunch voucher and saw the chaos at Vancouver Airport. We didn't know what was wrong with the officers and the authority at Vancouver Airport. They just kept ALL the passengers (except to the States) waiting in only one line to check the airport tax.<BR><BR>I don't want to describe the details about the frustrating, unpleasant dealing with Canada Air agents who made us feel like "beggars" and they took delay for granted. <BR><BR>Due to our 5-hour unbearable stay in Vancouver Airport. MY son, 15 years old, said,"Canada is NOT a civilized country. People are friendly and kind (we stayed in Canada on vacation for 24 days). How come the officers in Vancouver Airport are so barbarous?" He has been to 12 other countries. <BR><BR>

Cindy Aug 15th, 2002 10:15 AM

I think I'm a bit confused about the above post. Perhaps there's some information I'm missing, but a 2 and a half hour delay is not particularly unusual; I've had lots of those, and worse. I've never received or expected any special treatment from any airline because of a delayed flight. Perhaps the personnel you dealt with were rude, but I don't quite understand, on the basis of what you've told us, how they could be considered "barbarous."

Fred Aug 15th, 2002 11:00 AM

Deal with it Grace!<BR><BR>Sometimes flights get delayed for inexplicable reasons, especially international flights. I have to agree with Cindy as I myself have been delayed many times, and although incovenienced I ahve never felt the seeting rage that you seem to be feeling.<BR><BR>What type of place were you hoping to get from the airline for 15 people to rest for a couple hours? Do you think Air Canada has separate lounges for your comfort? Would you expect everyone on your flight and in your same circumstance to get the same "special" treatment?<BR><BR>Can you not understand that flight agents and supervisors at major international airports are under a lot of stress and have probably dealt with hundreds of angry passengers with your same dilemma? What do you expect them to do, cater to your specific needs? <BR><BR>You are adults in a large airport, find something to do, grab a meal, read a book and realize that technical and mechanical problems happen.<BR><BR>I would much rather be dealyed a few hours than fly across the Pacific in an unsafe aircraft.<BR><BR>How did they make you feel like "beggars" or act "barbarous"? They may have been a little rude yes but thats life soemtimes. If you aren't willing to acccept the possibility of delays while flying maybe you shouldn't travel.

Dan Aug 15th, 2002 01:39 PM

Back to the Prozac, Grace. And give some to junior. Geez...

f Aug 15th, 2002 01:39 PM

MB (original) and Grace (Vancouver) both incorrectly call Air Canada "Canada Air". Mesmells a troll or at least ignorant people.

Candice Aug 15th, 2002 02:57 PM

Air Canada has been getting ruder it's true, it was worse three years ago not just this year. three years ago I was on a flight from the States to Montreal and had to wait several hours in line at customs. Planes get delayed and they all unload at the same time causing a backlog. It's been that way for years.<BR><BR>As for the rudeness, well, for example I had a large parcel and it fell off the cart as I was moving through customs. I asked an Air Canada employee to help me put it back on-it wasn't back breaking just unmanageable for me, refused very rudely and said if I couldn't handle it etc.... I was surprised but it on the plane it was worse. I had an aisle seat but when I sat down the couple next to me insisted I had to leave because the wife was allergic to my cat. My cat was in a carrier asleep and it was a 2.5 hr flight. (what if I said I was allergic to her perfume?)<BR><BR>Air Canada insisted I move but they couldn't find me an aisle seat. I was flying with my pet which made me require an aisle seat because I need to put the carrier under my seat. and needed more leg room, that's why I has specially booked this flight etc.. <BR><BR>One attendant did go up and down the plane and ask if anyone could give up their aisle seat. Of course everyone said no. So the other attendants insisted I move to a middle seat. At this point I was furious as you can imagine. I locked myself in the only working bathroom (with my cat) and refused to come out until they found an aisle seat. Actually I needed a glass of water too, try getting that from an attendant.<BR><BR>Voila, a seat was found.<BR><BR>I will not fly Air Canada again as they are overpriced anyway. Try their fares are much better and their planes are not "unstable". The lines at customs are always a problem, try DRIVING across the border to Montreal from any border state on a weekend evening and you can spend 2-3 hours easy in a car smelling fumes. And if you try to turn around and drive away, the customs police comes after you and asks you why you turned around?<BR><BR>So I am only complaining about Air Canada here, not customs. Oh and did I mention that one of my bags was stolen on this same flight from the Air Canada baggage claim when I got to the states and they refused the claim because they said they stopped servicing that airport 30 minutes after the flight? Apparently you are only allowed 30 minutes to get off the plane and get your luggage if you are lucky and the baggage attendants are waiting 30 minutes after the actual flight not the estimated flight. They not responsible for baggage left "unattended" and that means as soon as they leave the area.

doolin Aug 15th, 2002 03:40 PM

Candice, Perhaps you could ask Grace for some of her Prozac.<BR>Maybe it's because of passengers like you that the Air Canada staff are sometimes short with other people. By the time they get to hear legitimate complaints, they are all worn out and frazzled by you and Grace.<BR>And to get back on topic, it still isn't Air Canada's fault for the long line ups at Customs.

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