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Passengers line-up at Pearson International Airport, in Toronto.Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The Canadian Press

As the peak holiday travel season takes flight, Canada’s busiest airport has a number of tips and tools to avoid long lineups and delays as seen this past summer.

Toronto Pearson International Airport said Tuesday that the lead up to Christmas is expected to be the busiest time to travel, starting as soon as next week, as well as the days around Jan. 9, when many children return to school.

In preparation for the spike, the airport has introduced a number of digital tools including an online security reservation system, YYZ Express, that lets customers on select flights reserve their security screening spot in advance.

The security reservation program is a pilot project for domestic and international flights, excluding the U.S., during peak times, said Tori Gass, a spokeswoman for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority.

In September, the airport launched an online dashboard so that passengers can receive live wait times on security screening, customs, airline counters and baggage carousels.

The airport peak times dashboard is another function Pearson recommends customers use that shows the busiest time of day for each terminal so that passengers can plan accordingly based on historical data.

New from the Canada Border Services Agency is Advance CBSA Declaration, where passengers can fill out a declaration form up to 72 hours in advance of returning to Canada through the ArriveCan app to gain access to an express customs lane, said Gass.

In addition to Pearson’s new tools, the airport continues to recommend that passengers arrive three hours ahead of international flights and two hours ahead of domestic travel.

As winter travel ramps up so has the harsh winter climate. Gass recommends passengers check the weather forecast and flight schedule in advance.

“Give yourself plenty of time before coming to the airport.”

To further reduce wait times, the Canada Air Transport Security Agency (CATSA) has begun rolling out tips for holiday travel across its social media platforms that include keeping gifts unwrapped in case inspection is required.

Passengers are also advised to check that all carried-on liquids are under 100 ml – this includes snow globes.

The airport said this holiday season will be particularly busy as passenger traffic has steadily increased since the summer, but the number of travellers is still expected to sit below pre-pandemic levels.

Pearson expects to see 80 per cent of passengers compared to 2019, based on the number of airline seats sold, said Gass.

The airport has “much improved” since the summer and the new modernization tools will help passengers prepare for holiday travel, said Deborah Flint, chief executive officer of the GTAA, in a news release.

This past summer, many passengers faced lengthy delays and flight cancellations at the airport, which according to tracking service FlightAware had the world’s worst record on delayed flights.

“We’re not seeing the same thing that happened in the summer where we had long lineups and other delays that were due to staffing,” said Gass.

Staffing levels of CATSA employees and baggage handlers were significantly affected over the pandemic, and while there were challenges earlier in the year around training and staff retention, Gass said that all of the airport partners have “really stepped up” to help with improving the shortage.

In the case that a flight is delayed, Pearson will have live entertainment including Christmas carollers and a family movie lounge.

“We’ve brought in a lot of tools since this past summer,” said Gass. “We’re hoping it’s going to be helpful for passengers for the holiday.”