The nice thing about Toronto’s Pearson International Airport is you can get from here to there mostly by foot. There are few reasons to ride the train. No shuttles. It actually is a convenient place for connections.
And connect, you will. This is Canada’s central hub. Planes come here from Europe, from South America, from the Caribbean, from Asia. Chances are if you are flying into Toronto, it’s from somewhere else pretty far away and often, across international borders.
But while connections are fairly close, this is not a small airport and some people are in a very real hurry.
Enter the high speed Express Walkway, bought from ThyssenKrupp of Spain, running 900 unbroken feet (that’s three football fields) down the length of the international area, connecting the customs area with the gates.
It moves three times faster than a regular moving walkway, 4.5 miles per hour which may not sound fast but then, if you are walking (or running) it gets, well, a bit exciting.
“You can actually feel the wind in your hair,“ quipped Terry Moore of Air Canada. “When someone is late and they run down that thing, it’s like they’re Superman.”
There have been problems with the system … noise and such, which have closed it down intermittently. It was down when I went through the airport, but back up and running within a few days, making it one of the few thrill rides in any airport. And in fact, it is the only one of these in the world, according to Trish Krale of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority.
Meanwhile, for slower folk, there are reader boards every so often telling you normal walking time from that spot to your next flight.
The airport is laid out in a large U, somewhat like LAX (Los Angeles) but unlike LAX, there are plans to eventually close the end, turning it into an elongated oval.
There are actually two terminals, Terminal One which is the largest and handles Air Canada and Star Alliance partners and Terminal Three, which has many international carriers, charter and secondary airlines. There is actually no real Terminal Two anymore. Both have a variety of lounges, including Air Canada’s Maple Leaf lounges where you can chill out, grab a snack, watch TV in a special viewing room, take a shower (yay) or hit the internet.
The architectural design and decor of all this is … well, Spartan.
“The idea was to open it up with plenty of space and light and a minimum of distractions so people can easily read the information signs,” said Moore.
Well, it’s not Vancouver with Northwest art. But it IS light and the signs ARE easy to read, as I found out while coming bleary eyed in from Greenland, heading to Seattle. And yes, the layout makes sense. I actually didn’t get lost once (for me a minor miracle).
In between, I sampled the edible goodies in one of air Canada’s Maple Leaf lounges. Okay, this isn’t Europe, where the food can border on the truly gourmet. But it isn’t Houston either, where dinner amounts to the kind of cheese squares and crackers you pack for a third grader.
I munched two kinds (beef and roasted mushroom) of really tasty ravioli, hummus, and a roast beef slider. There was also a nice, rich broccoli-cheese soup, and a variety of pickles and olives. But I bypassed the booze. Seventeen bottles, six varieties.
Well, that much they have in common with Houston.—by Yvette Cardozo, RFT Contributor and RFT Ski & Dive Editor