Report by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
TORONTO, ONTARIO — Torontonians bemoan their largest airport for many reasons. Soon, though, several airline passengers will have less to gripe about.
On Thursday, American Express will announce that its cardholders will gain the opportunity to do at Pearson International Airport what they can already do at a number of high-traffic venues around the world — skip to the front of the line.
“We are about giving our members access and experience,” said Howard Grosfield, president and CEO of Amex Bank of Canada. “Our lounge service at many airports is already a huge benefit for our members and the ability to go to the front of the security line at any terminal in Pearson airport is an added privilege.”
The Amex fast-track program will be in place in both passenger terminals at Canada’s largest airport, shaving precious minutes off of wait times for travellers. Holders of Amex’s Platinum Card can already access the Pearson Priority Security Line at some gates in Terminal 1, where Air Canada‘s flights depart. The new program, which will be in place before the end of this year, is expected to broaden the number of cardholders who have access to fast-tracking through the security line and will extend the priority-lane access across to Terminal 3 (there is no longer a Terminal 2 at the airport, after a revamping process five years ago).
With the airport handling an average of 91,500 passengers a day, anything to reduce the amount of waiting will no doubt be welcomed by the public.
“It’s a way to add a little more enjoyment back into the experience of flying,” Grosfield said on Monday night at Massey Hall, where Amex hosted a dinner that featured a broadcast of an Usher performance from London. Held on stage at the historic concert venue, the event showcased for the media the perks cardholders receive.
“Several years ago we changed our strategy from sponsorship to experience,” Grosfield said. “Rather than having the Amex named splashed everywhere — although we still do that sort of thing — we wanted to make it a priority for our members to get access and privileges that they wouldn’t have if they didn’t own an Amex card.”
The credit card company has managed to even get some airports in countries like Mexico to fast-track its cardholders through the immigration process, “but unfortunately we couldn’t do that here,” Grosfield said of the Pearson initiative, which he hinted will also include perks related to the numerous upscale dining options the airport has in the works.
Highly regarded Toronto chefs such as Mark McEwan, Claudio Aprile, and Rocco Agostino have recently announced plans to open eateries in the airport. Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) officials said they could not comment on this report prior to the release of the Amex announcement on Thursday.
Approximately 3.5 million Canadians — about one-tenth of the nation’s population — owns an American Express card, according to Moneris, which processes credit-card transactions.
When it was suggested that Amex — with its emphasis on getting card members to the front of the line — is the only corporation in the world that can convince airports to become more flexible with their security process, Grosfield said, “I’d like to think so. It makes sense in a lot of ways for us to be doing this. We’re always looking at ways to improve experiences for our members and this was one that I’m happy we were able to pull together.”
WHO SAYS CANADIANS DON’T TRAVEL IN THEIR HOMELAND?
This week, Hotwire.com released its top 20 destinations where Canadians plan to travel this summer, based on reservations made through the online booking company, and three of the top four were within the country. Toronto was No. 1 overall followed by Montreal, New York City and Vancouver. Halifax (No. 9), Ottawa (13) and Calgary (16) also hit the top 20.
With all the news of Canadians going across the border for cheaper flights at airports in Buffalo, New York, and Bellingham, Washington, and the oft-quoted statistic that it’s cheaper to go from Montreal to London or Paris than to Vancouver, it’s good to see some positive data about our travel intentions.