04/10/2014 01:52 EDT | Updated 06/10/2014 05:59 EDT

Pearson airport to change extreme weather protocol after January ground stop

TORONTO - Canada's busiest airport is changing how it deals with extreme winter weather and other disruptions after a deep freeze earlier this year triggered a partial shutdown that slowed travel for days.

The Greater Toronto Airport Authority issued a dozen recommendations Thursday to improve operations at Pearson International Airport after reviewing the January incident, which prevented North American flights from landing for more than eight hours.

"The unusual combination of winter weather conditions experienced at Toronto Pearson between January 5 and 9, 2014 caused numerous unforeseen challenges that significantly inconvenienced many passengers and their families," Vijay Kanwar, chair of the agency's board of directors, wrote in the report.

"The goal of our review is to improve the service we offer our visitors," he said. "We can do so by improving our operations during unusual winter weather to prevent and mitigate the impacts of disruptions, where possible."

"When disruptions do occur, we will do a better job of communicating with the public; we will treat our passengers with a high standard of customer service."

One recommendation would have the GTAA develop and publish "guidelines for responding to the needs of passengers during irregular operations," something the agency plans to achieve by September.

Another would create a web page to update travellers during disruptions, and boost the airport's wi-fi and cellphone service capacity. There should also be a Pearson mobile app, the report says.

In order to lessen the impact of cold weather, the airport should buy more equipment, proactively bring out warming stations to keep crew members warm and increase snow and ice removal to give planes better access to gates, the document reads.

Some improvements have already been made and others could take effect as early as July, the agency said. It plans to give a progress update in November.

Pearson declared a so-called "ground stop" on Jan. 7 after wind chill readings hovered around the -40 C mark, causing hundreds of flights to be cancelled.

Thousands of passengers slept at the airport and there were mountains of luggage waiting for pick-up.

The GTAA said at the time that the decision was made because of how the cold was affecting equipment and to minimize time outdoors for employees.

It later apologized for the delays.