Rebuilding Toronto Pearson

Posted: 6 February 2007 | Lloyd McCoomb, President and CEO, Greater Toronto Airports Authority | No comments yet

Having recently been voted Best Global Airport 2006 by the Institute of Transport Management, Toronto Pearson International Airport is delivering on a decade-old promise.

Having recently been voted Best Global Airport 2006 by the Institute of Transport Management, Toronto Pearson International Airport is delivering on a decade-old promise.

Shortly after assuming operational responsibility for Toronto Pearson International Airport in 1996, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) set out to fulfil a strategic vision that would deliver Toronto Pearson as the North American airport of choice.

The vision was framed by the development of premier airport facilities and services to meet future air travel demands; a strategic location on the North American continent; and a growing role in global trade, finance and commerce.

Guided by its mission to develop and operate for the public benefit, an airport system which supports the economic development and cultural diversity of South Central Ontario and Canada, the GTAA consistently meets and often exceeds:

  • The highest standards of safety and security;
  • Excellence in customer service;
  • Environmental stewardship and sustainability; and
  • Cost effectiveness and efficiency.

Committed to these sound business practices and having completed the major components of an extensive 10-year development program, the GTAA finds itself better placed than ever to deliver continued success in all facets of airport management.

In 2006, Toronto Pearson handled 31 million arriving and departing passengers. A decade ago, 26 million passengers were using the airport. Current forecast models indicate that upwards of 50 million passengers could be using Toronto Pearson by 2020-2025.

Part of this remarkable growth is due to the airport’s geographic location. Toronto Pearson is situated in the province of Ontario – Canada’s most populated and prosperous province – and Toronto itself is Canada’s centre of finance, industry and commerce. Not only is Toronto Canada’s largest city, it’s also the 5th-largest metropolitan area in North America. In fact, one-quarter of Canada’s population is located within 160 km of the city and more than 60 per cent of the population of the United States is within a one-hour flight. And that’s not to mention the more than 130 million potential consumers in Canada and the U.S. that are within a day’s drive of Toronto.

Toronto Pearson also offers a competitive advantage over other major North American cities with the utilisation of polar routing from overseas, resulting in flights that may be up to five hours shorter and offer savings of up to $50,000 per flight. The airport boasts direct links to all parts of Canada, North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. More than 79 airlines now operate their services out of Toronto Pearson.

The Airport Development Program

It was apparent to most – analysts, employees and travellers alike – that the Toronto Pearson of 1996 was inadequately configured to handle projected demands. Outdated and deteriorating facilities and infrastructure designed during a different era in aviation would not suffice. With so many people on its doorstep, the GTAA had to take action to ensure the viability of the most important asset within the country’s aviation system. The Authority responded with what turned out to be the most ambitious construction project in Canada ever to be undertaken.

Born of this need for change was the Airport Development Program (ADP). This $4.5 billion CDN program focused on four key areas: airside development; terminal development; infield development; and utilities and airport support. The ADP was a total solution for a redeveloped and enhanced Toronto Pearson.

Approximately eight years after ground was broken, the ADP – using only private-sector funding with no government tax dollars – was accomplished on-time and on budget.

One of the major challenges involved in reshaping an international airport the size of Toronto Pearson was the requirement to maintain a high level of service to the travelling public while not interfering with day-to-day operations. Essentially, the GTAA built a new airport over an existing one. The logistics behind this undertaking were challenging to say the least.

The centrepiece of the redevelopment was the construction of Terminal 1, Phase one of which opened in early 2004 for domestic operations. This 390,000 square metre facility represents a quantum leap in efficient airport operations and unparalleled customer service. More than just concrete, steel and glass, the building has revolutionised the travel experience; it employs the most modern technical advancements that make for a seamless journey for passengers and the airlines that carry them.

The latest addition, Pier F and Hammerhead F, were designed from the start to handle international and transborder (Canada – U.S.) operations. Air Canada, and some of its Star Alliance partners who prior to January 30, 2007 were functioning at both Terminals 1 and 2, consolidated their operations into one facility marking an obvious advantage for their customers.

A total of 25 new gates were added, as well as 56 additional check-in counters for international passengers and 78 for those destined stateside. Pier F is also home to two of the world’s longest (278m) and fastest (2m/sec) same step moving walkways. The GTAA has further positioned Toronto Pearson ahead of the curve in that two gates on Hammerhead F and an additional gate at Terminal 3 are capable of accommodating the Airbus A380.

The pier and hammerhead feature unique processing capabilities aimed at streamlining the travel experience. Intransit pre-clearance saves passengers time by providing inbound international travellers with the opportunity to transfer to U.S. bound flights without having to go through Canadian Customs first. Satellite Customs facilities provide for another lever of convenience as they allow U.S. and domestic passengers the opportunity to transfer to departing international flights without having to go back through pre-board security. This translates into more time to make connecting flights and to explore the many offerings of this world-class facility.

All of the efficiencies of Terminal 1 have also been applied towards the upgrade of Terminal 3 – the second of two terminals at Toronto Pearson – which houses many of the airport’s charter operators. In the summer of 2006, the GTAA unveiled more than 19,000 square metres as part of the East Processor Expansion. This upgrade to Terminal 3 has added additional check-in counters with enhanced features for airlines, a new larger passenger pre-board screening facility, expanded Secondary Customs area and more airline office space. With the Terminal 3 redevelopment, as is the case with Terminal 1, Toronto Pearson now offers 100 per cent hold baggage screening and not only meets but exceeds many of the safety regulations mandated by Transport Canada. Together, Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 serve Toronto Pearson as a vital link between North America and the world, allowing passengers to timely and efficiently connect through Toronto.

The GTAA has wisely invested in a customer focused airport that offers unprecedented flexibility to multiple air carriers and optimum service to the travel community.

With the opening of Terminal 1 came the introduction of the Airport Customer Assistance Program (ACAP), which makes travel easier for passengers in need of mobility assistance. ACAP facilitates point-to-point transportation with the use of wheelchairs and electric-vehicle surrey service. In 2006, more than 246,000 passengers were assisted with wheelchairs provided by ACAP, while more than 606,000 passengers made use of the surrey service.

In July 2006, connecting between terminals and offsite parking for passengers and employees alike was simplified with the introduction of the Automated People Mover, or LINK Train. This unique asset to the airport’s infrastructure has the capability of moving 2,150 passengers per hour per direction between its two, six car trains. The LINK Train reduces the airport’s reliance on bussing activity, hence reducing emissions emitted from groundside vehicles.

The GTAA undertook a unique approach in the development of the airport’s IT&T infrastructure. The terminals operate on the basis of a common use approach. Tenants, specifically the airlines, have the ability to plug into industry standard, GTAA owned and serviced equipment, streamlining the entire IT&T system to simplify the process and enhance the experience for their customers. As a part of this strategy, nearly 100 common use express check-in kiosks can be found throughout Terminal 1 and 40 kiosks are located within Terminal 3.

In the summer of 2006, Terminal 1 at Toronto Pearson became Wi-Fi enabled, allowing passengers to wirelessly connect to the Internet. The same initiative will be expanded to Terminal 3 in the first quarter of 2007.

Aside from passenger traffic, which accounts for nearly a third of Canada’s air traffic, Toronto Pearson also handles over 45 per cent of all of cargo that moves by air in Canada. The airport is undeniably Canada’s largest air cargo hub, processing more than 440,000 tonnes annually. A state of the art cargo village opened in 2002 and is comprised of three high-ceiling buildings covering approximately 70,000 square metres. The annual handling capacity is 1,000,000 tonnes and will serve Toronto Pearson beyond 2020.


The GTAA takes pride in its accomplishments related to the environment. Recognising from the start the importance of being a leader in the field of responsible environmental activities and stewardship, the GTAA implemented a sophisticated Environmental Management System. This system paved the way for the GTAA’s achievement of the internationally recognised ISO 14001 certificate in 1999. With it, the GTAA became the first international airport operator in North America to receive this designation. Registration to ISO 14001 has been maintained every year since certification was achieved and efforts are continuously concentrated on sustainability.

The GTAA recently unveiled the Co-generation plant which provides the airport with a clean, efficient and dependable source of power through gas and steam powered turbines. In the event of a power failure of the provincial grid, the airport can maintain operations because of this facility.

The safety and security of all airport users is always a top priority. The GTAA has adopted a multi-agency approach to ensuring the safest, most secure environment possible. Elements include the Public Safety Division, including GTAA security, emergency services, canine services, airside safety and compliance; all of which is supported by Peel Regional Police and the airport operations division, including the Airport Operations Control Centre, Security Operations, Emergency Planning, Medical Clinic and Terminal Nurses and Duty Managers.

The GTAA’s standard operating procedures have become known in the industry as the “Pearson Model” and are emulated by other Canadian airports. GTAA-run facilities at Toronto Pearson, specifically the Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute, are used to train emergency services staff from other airports around the world.

The GTAA’s Disaster Plans and Emergency Procedures, training programs, Hold Bag Screening, policing and canine services were singled out by the International Civil Aviation Organization as being exemplary in a 2005 audit of security procedures. The specialised competencies of GTAA staff combined with specific policies and procedures proved their value in August of 2005 when the airport community was called upon to respond to the overrun of Air France Flight 358. Thanks to a swift and coordinated response, there was no loss of life and the airport was able to return to normal operations just hours after the incident.

A model of efficient airport operations, and being emulated at airports throughout the continent, the GTAA has undeniably positioned Toronto Pearson International Airport as the North American Airport of choice. The airport is now in a position to function as a world class facility that supports tourism, business and economic growth for the region and the province it serves. Toronto is a city that merits a great airport; now it has one.

Send this to a friend