Pilots say a Transport Canada backlog is holding up medical certification, leading to months-long delays before they can return to the skies.

Air Line Pilots Association president Tim Perry says a significant number of pilots who have been deemed fit to fly by aviation medical examiners have been waiting a year or more to have Transport Canada greenlight their approvals, calling the delays “ludicrous.”

The bottleneck comes amid a surge in demand for pilots as travel begins to rebound after two years of depressed business due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Along with unions, pilots say the backlog is costing them by way of higher insurance premiums caused by the greater number of employees who are on long-term disability while awaiting their medical certificates.

Transport Canada spokesman Hicham Ayoun says there are delays beyond its typical 40-day window, and the department is working to process files as quickly as possible.

He noted that “new and medically complex applications” need more time for assessment.