Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I am grateful that I was invited to come back to speak with you today on this important issue.
So thank you for inviting me to appear before you.
I am joining you virtually today from the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.
I am pleased to be with representatives from Transport Canada, with whom you're familiar: Michael Keenan, deputy minister of transport; Colin Stacey, director general, air policy; Aaron McCrorie, associate assistant deputy minister, safety and security; and Nicholas Robinson, director general of civil aviation.
I want to start by saying that the delays we've been seeing at airports are frustratingly unacceptable.
It's also unacceptable to see travellers sleeping on airport floors because a flight was delayed or cancelled.
Today I want to give you an update on the progress made, but also acknowledge that there's still work to be done and share what we are doing to address this.
To begin, after a difficult two years for the aviation sector, where they lost almost 90% of their business and faced significant layoffs, we saw a massive surge in demand for air travel of 252%. This is the increase in daily passenger volumes between January and August 2022 in Canada. In comparison, in the U.S. the volume per day increased by 64%.
I want to be clear. That's not an excuse. It's a fact. The aviation sector is a highly integrated sector. Transport Canada has control over certain aspects of it, but it does not manage the operations of most of its components.
Having said that, from day one we decided to focus on action rather than blame. Canadians rightly expect their government to do everything it can to address congestion causes and work with partners to implement solutions.
We have taken action since the start and will continue.
For example, we've hired more than 1,700 CATSA officers since May. The result is that 87% of passengers departing from the four largest airports were screened by CATSA within 15 minutes over the second week of August, and that is up from 63% over the first week of May. There's still more to be done, and we continue to hire CATSA officers every day.
Over the past few months, we've also addressed several potential operational bottlenecks, including public health measures like mandatory random testing, which is now being done outside of airports. As we know, airport operations are extremely interconnected, and coordination between partners is essential.
To highlight a few, Transport Canada sets airport and airline safety standards. Airlines are responsible for transporting their customers, for dealing with flight plans and for passenger baggage. Airports manage the flow of planes and passengers on their premises. CATSA is responsible for security screening, while CBSA is responsible for welcoming and processing international arrivals. Each of our partners has an important role to play in Canada's air sector, and if there are issues in one area, that affects other areas.
Over the last few months, I've personally met with airlines and airports across the country, as well as other partners in the industry. I've travelled and visited 13 airports, big and small, to see the situation first-hand. I'm happy to see encouraging results, such as only 2% of flights planned for Canada's top four airports over the second week of August being cancelled—which is, by the way, closer to the traditional average. This is a drop from 5% over the first week of July.
I also want to touch on another important subject: Passengers have rights.
Our government was the first government in Canadian history to recognize that and do something about it, in 2017. Our government worked with the Canadian Transportation Agency, or CTA, which is an independent quasi-judicial tribunal and regulator of Canada's national transportation system, to create the air passenger protection regulations a few years ago. Airlines must respect travellers' rights and compensate travellers who are eligible. The CTA, like any other tribunal, is responsible for receiving and analyzing complaints from travellers who believe they are entitled to compensation in instances where airlines have not provided it. Our government has recently given the CTA an additional $11 million to help them process the backlog. We're going to make sure that the CTA has the resources they need to fulfill their mandate under the air passenger protection regulations.
In closing, I want Canadians to know that their government has been actively working at addressing airport congestion caused by the surge in air travel demand. We are seeing encouraging results, but there's still more work to be done.
There are those who have a vested interest in embellishing reality and undermining confidence in our airline sector only to score political points. Our government, on the other hand, is focusing on tackling the real issues, working with partners and taking real action. Our plan is to do everything possible to reduce delays. That's what we did, and that's what we will continue to do.
We will continue to do everything possible to fix the situation.
We know that we all need to work together to resolve the situation, and I invite members of this committee to also present solutions.
Mr. Chair, that concludes my opening remarks, and I'm looking forward to answering the questions of my colleagues.