Toronto Pearson ranks low among North American mega airports in J.D. Power survey

Toronto Pearson International Airport has ranked near the bottom among major North American flight hubs in J.D. Power's latest customer satisfaction ranking.

The 2021 study released Wednesday ranked Pearson second-lowest among the 20 airports in the 'mega' category, which see at least 33 million passengers per year.

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Michael Taylor, head of travel intelligence at J.D. Power, says Pearson specifically fared relatively poorly because of facilities and pandemic policies.

"A lot of it had to do with COVID procedures, and really some of the terminal facilities could be upgraded."

He said wait times, baggage delays, and issues around the number of people allowed in the terminal because of the pandemic all contributed to the relatively low ranking.

"It’s been a tough year. There’s been a tremendous amount of operational challenges based on COVID procedures at Toronto."

Pearson's rating of 780 points out of a possible 1,000 was below the record high average of 798 points, though it marked an improvement from Pearson's score last year of 763 points.

The airport, managed by the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, has been warning throughout the pandemic of increased wait times because of the need for extra screenings and inspections.

The GTAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

J.D. Power says customer ratings were generally higher in the first half of the August 2020 to July 2021 study period but slipped in the second half as passenger volumes and expectations rose.

The consumer insights firm says labour shortages helped lead to lower scores for food, beverage and retail services among airports.

Pearson has seen its passenger numbers plummet during the pandemic. In the second quarter of last year it had only half a million passengers, compared with 12.8 million in the same period in 2019, while the second quarter this year saw about a million people pass through its terminals.

While Pearson scored low in the J.D. Power study, earlier this year the Airports Council International awarded it the best large airport in North America for the fourth year in a row.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2021.

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