Do you like to fly? Flying is a complex part of travel and sometimes is necessary to reach your destination. Toronto Pearson Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world and thus can be challenging to navigate. With many new upgrades and several years in the making the all new Terminal 1 at Toronto Pearson International Airport is a breeze to get through.

We booked a ticket to Paris with Air Canada back in February of 2019 for travel October 2019. We decided to see what traveling Basic Economy was all about and get the opportunity to explore the all new Terminal 1 upgrades and improvements.

Security screening in Terminal 1 is still mandatory and at the for front of the airline process and depending on your destination you will have to go through customs just like always however the new set up in Terminal 1 makes this process smooth. The airline check in counters are across from the appropriate security gates to make getting from one to the other easy and seamless.

Once you have arrived inside the terminal, for anyone needing accessibility options, they are available at the check in counter for your airline. Any services you may need must be pre-arranged with your airline at least 48 hours prior to your flight departure time. Several services are available at the airport including wheelchair assistance, AIRA and the Magnus Cards. Your accessible travel agent will arrange any needed services with the airline for you.

AIRA is an app for download that assists those traveling with a loss of sight navigate Toronto Pearson International Airport unassisted. The app connects to on-demand professionals who can assist those with a loss of sight navigate the airport to their gate, to security, to food and shopping options as well as washrooms as needed. The app works on iOS and Android. Here is how it works:

  1. Download the Aira App on your smartphone through Google Play or the Apple App Store.
  2. Open the Aira app and choose the prompt “Tap to use Aira as a Guest for FREE!”
  3. Register with an email and phone number and complete the signup process.
  4. You will receive a text message confirming your phone number.
  5. Tap the link in the text message to complete the signup process.
  6. Connect with an agent by tapping the phone icon.

Once you are inside the app and registered you can connect to an agent and they will assist in your navigation around the airport to the desired location.

The Magnus Card is another app for download to assist those with Autism within the airport environment. It is also available for iOS and Android. The Magnus Cards is ideally downloaded before you arrive at the airport. This app has several decks of cards inside the app that show the airport procedures, preparing those with needs for the different checkpoints they will encounter. There are currently 20 decks outlining procedures for everything from checking into your flight to boarding the aircraft.

Our flight took off from Gate E – International Departures. Security at this gate though busy with people took only 20 minutes with the new screening machines and additional staff available to check passengers.

For anyone traveling with service animals, relief areas are available inside Terminal 1 at Pearson Airport. 3 locations are available in Terminal 1, on the departures level at aisle 15, on the ground level at exit door S, and after security near gate D30. Please make sure the airline is aware of your traveling service animal at least 48 hours prior to your flight departure.

After security passengers are funneled to the new Terminal 1 gate areas. The gates are more spread out and additional shopping and dinning areas have been included in the terminal renovations. The check in process for our Basic Economy flight was the same as for everyone else. We were still allowed to check in online 24 hours prior to departure and choose our seat. We were scheduled to fly on a Boeing 777, a large plane with lots of seating options to choose from. Air Canada does not set aside seating or guarantee easy seating for those traveling with special needs. If you do require a specific seat you can purchase a seat selection starting from the time you booked up to 24 hours prior to departure. Remember with the Basic Economy ticket there is no option to upgrade your ticket to Premium Economy or First Class seating.

Once you have traveled down to the gate area, explore the terminal or find a seat in the new seating areas. High top and regular table seating are available. iPads are available in most of the seating. From these iPads you can order food and drinks from several of the restaurants in the gate area. Payment is taken right at your seat when you order by credit card. Servers bring your food and drink right to your seat when they are ready.

If you need assistance getting to your gate you can make use of the terminal shuttle. This cart allows for seating for 5. It does not easily accommodate baggage. Bags will have to be secured on passenger laps. The shuttle can be picked up from the designated areas, purple signs saying “wait here for mobility assistance.” If you are unable to locate a pick up area, obtain the assistance of an airport staff member or flag down the shuttle as it drives by. Shuttles will stop at any requested stop for passengers to get on and off.

If you are looking for a quieter experience while at the airport consider one of the airport lounges. The Plaza Premium Lounge is available in Terminal 1 as well as the Maple Leaf Lounge. Both lounges are available for pre-purchase online. The Maple Leaf lounge is available to Air Canada ticket holders on qualifying tickets or who purchase upon arrival. Day of purchase is subject to availability. The lounges offer Wi-Fi, shower facilities, light food and beverage options as well as entertainment.

For those trying to save a buck when flying our experience on Basic Economy for our flight from Toronto to Paris was no different then your regular standard economy seat. We still were allowed our one carry on item and one personal item for baggage, we were still given the same amenities onboard that other economy passengers were given like a hot meal (which we had thought Air Canada had done away with) and pillows and blankets for our overnight flight. The only difference seemed to be for the cost of checked luggage. For a basic economy ticket, your first checked bag would be $60CAD, were as with standard economy your first checked bag is included in the cost of your ticket.

We had the opportunity to fly a Boeing 777 for our flight from Toronto to Paris and the double aisle planes are still far more enjoyable to fly. There is plenty of onboard entertainment, with movies, tv shows and music to listen to. Our meal was decent as well. A choice a chicken or pasta, macaroni salad, a bun, bottled water and a brownie. First class seating and premium economy seating is available on the Boeing 777, however with a basic economy ticket you are unable to make any type of upgrades to your ticket after purchase. Economy on this flight was not a bad experience.

We generally do not fly Air Canada however this trip to Europe was made smooth, easy and comfortable by the Air Canada staff. This trip again is proof flying overseas is a very different experience then flying domestic or transborder with Air Canada. We cannot wait for our next opportunity to fly out of Terminal 1.