Thousands of travellers filled Toronto Pearson International Airport on March 8, many trying to escape a harsh winter for a March Break in the sun on one of the busiest travel days of the year.
Up to 144,000 passengers were expected at the airport, according to the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, which operates Pearson. Many people were headed to hot destinations such as Florida, Mexico and Cuba.
Jennifer Still was one of those eager travellers. Waiting with her husband and three children for a flight to Mexico, they were at the airport several hours early.
“We were expecting a large crowd and lots of traffic so we came early. Our flight isn’t until night time, but we were worried about the Toronto traffic as well,” she said.
The family was content to wait with books in hand as the kids sat patiently playing a card game amid throngs of travellers. “This is our first trip outside of the U.S. We normally go to Florida, but this year we decided on Mexico,” Still said.
It was a similar story for another family of four waiting for the same flight. The father, Shawn Patterson, said, “We wanted to get away to a warm place, but we booked at the last minute so there weren’t too many selections. This was the only time we could get off, and the kids are in high school so we just took the opportunity to get away.”
Pearson workers said this is one of the busiest travel days of the year, next to Christmas break.
Tess Khan, a grounds agent for Dutch airline KLM, took the chaos of the busy travel day in stride. “Most people are prepared and the kids are good, too. It is a very expensive time [to travel], but people keep on coming. It keeps us on our toes.”
The lineups at almost every check-in counter were almost out the door. Terminal 3 seemed to be the busiest, with most flights heading to the U.S. There were also several flights going to Mexico, Cuba and Europe.
“Many school groups come travel during March Break, including sports teams, art and social associations, and volunteer groups such as Habitat for Humanity,” Khan said.
Yasmine Gallagher, a representative from Sunwing Vacations, said that it’s been a very busy winter. “I believe the weather does affect business. March Break is always a busy time, however when there’s been winters such as these, the ticket sales are generally higher.”
Toronto Pearson saw 49.5 million passengers in 2018, up 2.4 million from the previous year, making it the second-largest international passenger airport in North America.