I have travelled the world extensively over the course of more than a decade, transiting through dozens of airports, some very basic, some the height of modernity. There are a range of problems that can crop up at an airport, from confusing signage, lack of amenities, crowding, queues and poor layouts.
However, most airports have staff that are at least courteous to their guests and well understand that, for many people, this is the first impression people will have of their country, so want to give a good impression. There are some airports where you feel they don’t care, but only one, on each of the four occasions in which I have landed there, has vitriolic officials who go out of their way to be as obnoxious and unpleasant to their guests as possible. The rudest airport in the world is Toronto Pearson International in Canada. (Main pic: Toronto Airport is so rude it even broke the Man of Steel's patience).
So why? Well to begin, let me point out that this has happened on every occasion in which I have been to Toronto Pearson International. So untypically Canadian, and so taken aback was I by the behaviour, that I asked several other travellers at the airport about my impressions and they all confirmed the extraordinary unpleasantness of the staff. This wasn’t just me and it wasn’t a one-off. It seems almost as if treating passengers like scum is part of their training program.
The first inkling you have that something is wrong is when you disembark from the plane. The staff are disinterested and respond with a shrug when you ask for help. Then you hit the huge passport control queues which you must endure even if you only want to transit through to your connecting flight.
The signage is poor so it can be confusing which queue to join and the noise is frequently broken with shouts from the security offices of ‘hey stupid’ – I even heard ‘dumbass’. An elderly Irishman on crutches just in front of me said to his wife after the queue hadn’t moved in 50 minutes, ‘I told you they’re animals here.’ Another thirty minutes later and we were still queuing and, when he asked for a seat, he was refused. Eventually, presumably for having the audacity to request a seat, they were moved to the very back of another queue despite their protestations. After 90 minutes, my turn to approach the passport control desk came.
The look on the officer’s face was pure misery.
"Why are you here?"
"I’m transiting, I’m catching another flight to…"
“I didn’t ask about your flight." She made a beckoning sign with her hand, I didn’t know what she wanted as I’d already handed over my passport.
“Gimme the god damn hotel details. Jesus.”
“I’m not staying in Toronto.”
“Are you an idiot? Just give me the hotel details of wherever you’re staying.”
Luckily, I had them printed out so I did.
“What’s the flight number of plane you’re returning on?”
“I don’t know, I have the details in my bag.”
“What time does it leave?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you know anything? Do you know your name?"
She stamped my passport and threw it at me. “Get with the program.”
I walked passed the booth and through the security barrier in a daze. I had never experienced abuse like it.
“Hey idiot,” came the shout. There was another security official perched on a stool to my left that I could see once I had passed security. He pointed to my right. “That way!”
Don't expect to see these smiling faces at Toronto Airport
I was on edge now, wondering what I had done. As I descended the escalator to baggage reclaim I heard the officer on the stool yelling at someone else ‘hey are you stupid?’
I spoke to my fellow travellers and came to realise that my experience was the norm. A couple from the US were run over by a baggage cart and told they shouldn’t have been in the way of the driver. A British girl’s grandmother collapsed in the queue and her friend was told that she looked like a prostitute. My return journey with Air Canada via Toronto was the same.
On my last trip to Toronto I met a Canadian guy and asked him what was going on at the airport. Whenever I visit Canada the people are helpful and friendly, I pointed out, nothing like the security staff at the airport.
“They’re obnoxious,” he said. “just give it straight back to them.” I’m not sure I agree with the second part.
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