Seventy per cent of Canadians agree the widespread delays at airports across the country are a “national embarrassment,” a new poll suggests, with nearly 60 per cent of people saying they are avoiding travel until the situation improves.
But the Ipsos poll, conducted exclusively for Global News and released Friday, found Canadians believe there’s plenty of blame to go around for the delays between airports, airlines, the federal government and even travellers themselves.
“The poll definitely suggests there’s a lot of anger right now and uncertainty around travel,” Gregory Jack, vice-president of Ipsos Public Affairs, told Global News.
“Overall, we definitely see a very high level of concern among Canadians in what’s happening at our airports, and they are spreading the blame around pretty equally.”
Long lineups at Canada’s airports have now lasted for months, prompting airlines to cut back on flights to try and reduce the delays — only leading to more chaos as travellers navigate cancelled or rescheduled trips.
The government and airline industry groups have blamed a variety of factors, including a surge in traveller demand as COVID-19 restrictions ease, staffing shortages at airports and airlines, and continued COVID-19 testing for incoming travellers, among other public health measures at airports.
Ipsos surveyed over 1,000 Canadian adults earlier this week for Friday’s poll.
It found while just five per cent of those surveyed strongly agreed they had been personally impacted by the delays, and another 18 per cent somewhat agreed, Canadians’ anger over the situation is palpable.
Only 37 per cent of respondents said the federal government is doing enough to address the delays and cancellations, and just 35 per cent said the same about airlines.
Additionally, nearly 60 per cent of those surveyed disagreed that Canada is doing a better job than other countries in managing airport delays, which have become an international issue.
When asked if it’s understandable that airports are experiencing difficulties, as a quick rebound in travel demand could not have been predicted, Canadians were virtually split between agreeing and disagreeing.
The poll found almost 40 per cent of Canadians think the federal government, airports, airlines and travellers themselves are equally to blame for the delays. Among those who pointed the finger in just one direction, a plurality — 22 per cent — said Ottawa was responsible.
Yet different types of delays had different culprits accused of shouldering the blame.
For delays at security checkpoints, 33 per cent said the airports were the problem. Airlines were seen as most likely to be responsible for delays at check-in counters (31 per cent) and for flight delays and cancellations (44 per cent). Airports and airlines were equally blamed for baggage delays (33 and 34 per cent, respectively), while 34 per cent said the government was responsible for delays at customs.
Canadians were also found to be split on whether these delays are temporary or will stick around for a longer time, with 55 per cent agreeing the situation will be resolved by September. The rest predicted the issue will last well beyond summer.
“It’s a sign of a longer-term problem on service offerings overall in the post-COVID era,” Jack said.
“We’re not seeing this only in air travel. I think that sense of uncertainty as to what’s going to happen next is the case in a lot of areas, in terms of supply chains, availability of goods — things are simply not happening as quickly or as efficiently as people are used to.”
Driving that point home, two-thirds of respondents said the airport issues are both the start of further problems with the delivery of basic public services, and a sign the government has neglected those services for too long by focusing on “the wrong issues.”
The government has repeatedly insisted it is working to address the delays. On Friday, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra released a list of meetings he has had over the past week with airport CEOs and other stakeholders focused on the issue.
That list was released after Ottawa announced it will resume random COVID-19 testing for incoming travellers, which travel groups have blamed for the delays. However, the government says the testing will be performed off-site in a bid to reduce lineups at airports.