Toronto Pearson International’s most irritating traveller traps
Friday July 20, 2012
Stephanie Findlay Staff Reporter
In Canada’s busiest airport, payphones and baggage carts are among the monetary booby traps.
Unsuspecting customers at Toronto Pearson International airport — and 33 million people passed through in 2011 — may find themselves spending more money than they intended.
“You have to pay for a baggage trolley, perhaps the most uncivilized aspect of the whole experience,” wrote a Pearson customer on an online forum supported by SkyTrax, a UK-based airline and airport consulting firm.
“If you are a foreign visitor, you will likely not have the correct change,” the customer continues, “Welcome to Toronto!”
The airport has a different opinion. “In this system, guests not using the carts are not required to help fund the maintenance and upkeep of the system,” said Trish Krale, a representative of Pearson, in an email to the Star.
But it’s the customer who gets the last word. For the second time running, Pearson was named Canada’s worst airport in a survey this year conducted by FlightNetwork.com, an online travel company.
“The top three pain points were slow security, bad service, and lack of dining options,” said Jamil al Jabri, FlightNetwork.com’s marketing manager.
That may be why customers are catching flights elsewhere. Of the vehicles in the Buffalo-Niagara airport long-term parking lots this February, 38 per cent had Canadian license plates.
Pearson is making reforms, including launching two new restaurants in partnership with celebrity chef Massimo Capra.
“We are looking at ways that we can improve the experience of the guests as they travel through our airport,” said Krale.
“We are looking at increasing the communication to those waiting in lines, we are working on improvements to passenger flow in the buildings and are always finding new ways to delight and entertain our guests while they are at the airport,” she said.
In the meantime, the airport is a work in progress. As its vision statement puts it, “Toronto Pearson will be North America’s premier portal to a world of possibilities.” Key word: will.
The Star asked Pearson customers where they thought the airport was unfriendly. From their answers, here are five ways Pearson could improve.
• Costly baggage carts
Eliza Cunha is from Brazil. Though the 30-year-old said going through Pearson was, in general, a pleasurable experience, she wonders why she must cough over cash for a baggage cart.
“I just think we don’t need to pay for the trolley,” she said, “I know two dollars is not a lot, but the airport can afford it.” As Cunha points out, “sometimes we don’t have the coins.”
• Tricky payphones
Anyone without cash handy would have to use a credit card if they want to make a long-distance call home using one of the many payphones in Pearson. But the bill can be shocking. For example, one long distance call from Toronto to Hull costs $8.97 for the first two minutes, .99 cents for every minute after.
• In a spot over parking
Searching for parking at Pearson can be Kafkaesque. During peak travelling season, prowling for an open spot becomes time consuming and stressful. There is a better way. Look to the Johannesburg airport, where an innovative system was installed in 2010 for the FIFA World Cup. Lights hang from the ceiling signaling free spots to drivers. Red means full, green means go.
• Play time
Pearson has play areas for kids, but they are lacking, said Bonita Fougere, a 35-year-old mother from Halifax. “Frankfurt is really easy to get around, and they have a whole room dedicated to moms and dads,” she said. Indeed, Frankfurt airport has targeted families as a special group to improve service for. By the end of next year, the airport will have nine new playing areas, according to Meike Wasow, a Frankfurt Airport representative. Toronto, by comparison, has three.
• Slim (and expensive) culinary pickings
“Options for eating in terminal one aren’t great,” said Ian Paterson, who was waiting for his sister to arrive from Edmonton. Case in point? The 12 dollar pint of beer, said Paterson. “Dallas is amazing, there are food options in all areas of the airport,” he said. There are over fifty restaurants in the Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport, ranging from fast food (Fuddruckers Hamburgers) to swanky sit downs (La Bodega Winery).
“The feedback we have gotten is passengers would like more quick serve and more healthy options,” said David Magaña, a representative of the airport. And since it’s in Texas, “there is great BBQ here and Mexican food.”