Pearson airport runway construction blamed after passengers, including 15-year-old boy, left stranded

After weeks of delays and cancellations due to runway construction at Canada’s busiest airport, there appears to be an end in sight.

With a crew of about 200 working around the clock, the work is expected to be finished on schedule by May 16, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) said Wednesday.

Since construction began at the end of March, however, a significant number of flights have been disrupted —; especially on days with bad weather. (A spokesperson for the GTAA could not say how many).


The Morning Show on AM640 heard from two Air Canada passengers on Wednesday, who spoke out about how they were treated after their flights were disrupted.

Passengers at Pearson Airport welcomed by furry surprise guest

Fifteen-year-old Derrin Espinola said he was stuck at Pearson airport alone overnight after he missed a connecting flight to Thunder Bay from Denver, Colo., earlier this month.

Espinola, who is not old enough to check into a hotel on his own, said he didn’t get assistance from Air Canada agents in Toronto.

“I had to go and find Air Canada representatives to try and get myself a hotel stay and some food. But everyone I had talked to said, ‘No, we can’t help you,’ and then would send me to a different line,” he said.

His mother told the CBC she spent hours on the phone trying to resolve the situation.

LISTEN: Air Canada passengers Graham MacKenney and Derrin Espinola join The Morning Show

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In an emailed statement to AM640, Air Canada said the company is sorry to learn of the boy’s experience and said their customer relations team has been in contact with the family.

A spokesperson said Air Canada has dedicated staffers “actively combing passenger lines and at service desks to provide the appropriate arrangements and respond to customers’ questions.”

“It is particularly disappointing this young man was not identified, as Air Canada’s customer service team at Toronto Pearson made all efforts to prepare for the disruption caused by the GTAA’s runway construction project, which was exacerbated in this case by adverse weather. This included pre-reserving hotel rooms for customers such as [Espinola] and having our service provider for chaperoning minors staying at hotels on standby.”

The airline also said it has been working to mitigate the effects of the construction by using larger aircraft wherever possible and fully staffing its operational teams. It recommends all customers check their flight status before going to the airport.

WATCH: Rebuilding the longest runway of Canada’s busiest airport is necessary for safety reasons. As Sean O’Shea reports, travellers say the construction is adding hours of delays to trips (May 3)

Graham MacKenney, who also joined The Morning Show, said he and his wife were told that they couldn’t be rebooked on a flight home to Saint John for two days after their Air Canada flight from Toronto was cancelled on Sunday.

 “When we asked if they would be putting us up for the two days, she just kind of blinked at us and said, ‘No, it’s Pearson’s problem and we’re not responsible for you,’” MacKenney said.

They ended up taking an earlier flight to Moncton, about 150 km away from home. In an interview with the Toronto Star, Johanne McInnis estimated the couple incurred about $700 of expenses as a result of the ordeal.

Both families told The Morning Show they have filed complaints.

When asked if Air Canada would provide compensation or accommodation to stranded passengers, a spokesperson said these delays and cancellations are outside the control of the airlines.

“It’s well understood that liability is therefore limited. However, each case is different and we deal with customers directly.”

A spokesperson for the GTAA said that matters of passenger compensation are “typically decided between the customer and the airline from whom they purchased their ticket.”

The GTAA said the construction, which includes repaving the runway surface, is necessary for safety reasons and the airport and its partners had been planning for it for over a year.