November 29, 2023

The Queens County Citizen

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Worst airport in the world

Worst airport in the world

When London Airport was blocked by snow, just before Christmas 2010, organizers came to Montreal to find a solution.


From 2011 to 2017, Normand Boivin was responsible for operations at Heathrow, one of the world’s largest airports. One of his biggest “operations” was planning the arrival of hundreds of thousands of people for the 2012 Olympic Games.

I met him when I got off the plane, and every time I step foot in the sad Montreal airport, three days before the ceremony, I think about what he said to me that day in July.

“The airport is a business of emotions,” he tells me as he sips coffee – because everything is planned to the smallest detail and he’s not stressed.

What do you mean, business of emotions?

“People are worried. Their patience is limited. Before thinking about being pleasant, you should avoid giving reasons to criticize. No one comes here for the airport. If people forget it’s there, that’s fine. »

It’s pretty obvious, of course, that all people want to do when they get to the airport, as quickly as possible, one way or another.

And this is where Trudeau’s airport shows Olympic-caliber incompetence: We seem to have forgotten the obvious.

Whether you want to enter to catch a flight or try to flee the place after landing, almost everything is more painful, longer, and unpleasant than other places.

Remember that we cannot bring enough buses to transport passengers.

Do you want to take a taxi? They are there. They stamp their feet. There are also customers, happy to spend $50 or $100 as quickly as possible. But for a short part of the sidewalk, cars come.

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I’m not talking about the access route congestion that takes 10 years or the luggage that seems to make the endless journey between the plane and the terminal.

But for a very average-sized international airport, Montreal promises you one of the worst experiences.

Needless to say, this is not the “fault” of Aéroports de Montréal (ADM).

Air Canada and other airlines have not hired enough workers despite the influx of customers after the pandemic.

Transports Quebec has dragged its feet in developing access roads and continues to do so.

The federal government regulated the airports 30 years ago and they are self-financing.

The Société de Transport de Montréal does not manage transport well and dares to call this bus line “747” – see the text of my colleague Philippe Mercure.

ADM’s job is certainly not to make these things happen that she doesn’t like. To manage the details.

When I heard the ADM representative at Paul Arcand (not even the president) say he was “appalled” by the situation, I wanted to say: How can we hold on? The influx is not unpredictable, but like a flash flood: people buy their tickets far in advance.

And what exactly do you do to fix it, other than lamenting the plight of others? Are we keeping our fingers crossed for REM? We stare hard at the calendar and say to ourselves: Summer is over, will autumn be peaceful?

When I met Normand Boivin in London, he told me that he personally summoned three ministers from the British cabinet (transport, public safety, sports) to “shake them up” before the Olympics.

Photo by George Archer, Archives special contribution

Normand Boivin, former Head of Operations at Heathrow

However, he was a foreigner, only number two at the airport. But he got his message across.

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“I told them: What do we do if the airspace is crowded? We [Heathrow] A private company, but we provide a prominent public service, we serve the nation’s economy. They responded. There is no difference between us and the politicians here! »

It will be transferred word for word to the Montreal situation. An airport is not just a “showcase”, it is a critical economic infrastructure.

At the moment, in terms of access, this airport is probably, yes, the worst in the world.

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