Delays at Pearson Airport Terminal 1 as Passengers Directed Through Wrong Door

Passengers are being held in Terminal 1 at Pearson airport on Nov. 9, 2023, after travellers were allowed through the wrong door. (Photo: Pearson Airport/X)

A misstep by ground staff causes a mix-up with passengers, leading to extensive screening and delays in Pearson Airport’s Terminal 1

Chaos ensued at Pearson International Airport‘s Terminal 1 this morning after a group of arriving passengers was mistakenly led through a restricted door, causing significant delays and a temporary lockdown in the transborder area.

According to the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), the mix-up occurred when a ground handler, contracted by an airline, incorrectly directed arriving passengers to an area reserved for those heading to the United States. This misstep led to arriving passengers being intermingled with those yet to be screened by U.S. customs, necessitating a halt in operations to resolve the confusion.

Sean Davidson, a spokesperson for the GTAA, emphasized that although there was no immediate security threat, the error required U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) to conduct thorough checks to identify passengers who had been screened. “These passengers are now mixed with passengers who are heading to the U.S. so while there is no imminent security threat here at the airport, U.S. customs now needs to do some work to figure out exactly who has been screened and who hasn’t and unfortunately that just takes a bit of time,” Davidson explained to CP24.

The incident primarily affected passengers in the Terminal 1 transborder area. While operations for domestic and international flights at Terminal 1 and all gates at Terminal 3 remained unaffected, images circulating on social media depicted hundreds of grounded passengers amidst a strong presence of airline staff, police, and USCBP personnel.

Passengers wait to board flights in a section of Pearson International Airport’s Terminal 1 on Nov. 9, 2023. (Michael Kuluva/ Submitted)

One traveler, Michael Kuluva, waiting for his flight to Miami, recounted the situation to CP24: “Customs is here, the police is here. No one is able to move in or out. No flights are in or out either.”

Pearson International Airport acknowledged the disruption, stating that they are actively working with USCBP to ascertain which flights can resume boarding. An update posted around 9:45 a.m. indicated that screening was beginning to restart with heightened security measures in place.

In response to the incident, the airport advised affected passengers to contact their respective airlines for information on subsequent steps and assured that Pearson staff would provide assistance as needed. “We empathize with any passengers this morning that were delayed as a result of this issue,” Davidson added, signaling the GTAA’s understanding of the inconvenience caused.

An unconfirmed report to CityNews suggested that passengers from a flight arriving from Calgary were those led into the restricted area, with an aviation source naming Lynx as the airline involved and a Lynx employee as the one who misdirected the passengers.

Pearson International Airport has stated that it will provide updates as more information becomes available.