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Empty terminal greets travellers at Toronto's Pearson airport

Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom departs by helicopter following his arrival in advance of the G8 and G20 Summit at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Thursday, June 24, 2010.

Gerry Broome/AP

Torontonians at Pearson International Airport are making a smooth, albeit slow, escape from the city's security lockdown. Many have yet to leave the ground, but not because of expected flight delays or gridlock traffic.

After heading to Pearson early under official advisement to expect major travel inconvenience in the days leading up to the Summit, Marc Emond is just waiting.

Mr. Emond snuck out of work a full four hours before his flight to Vancouver was scheduled to depart. Now he has those extra hours to kill in an empty terminal before his 10-day West Coast vacation can begin.

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"I was worried. I left as early as possible - but the taxi ride here was really painless," Mr. Emond said. The 37-year-old has new plans to start his vacation in an airport over a take-out breakfast of scrambled eggs and some classic literature.

"I'm going to settle in with Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment," he says of the Russian novel he's "always been meaning to read but never had the time."

Mikiko Senzai has a different kind of book in-hand, a hefty medical text opened to diagrams of the human body. The 28-year-old student from Niigata University in Japan is nose-deep in her studies, but keeps a watchful eye on her big red suitcase and duty-free chocolates.

Ms. Senzai has spent the past month studying medicine at the University of Toronto. She first arrived at the airport last night at 9 p.m., hoping to stay the night. But the few rooms left were "over $200," she says.

Instead, she stayed in Toronto with friends and experienced smooth traffic en route this morning when her friend dropped her off-six hours before her flight, just in case.

Her Air Canada flight to Tokyo is scheduled on time.

Norman and Freda Scotch aren't heading to an island in Asia, but they still arrived early-with no idea that the rest of the world was arriving as well, including U.S. President Barack Obama, who landed this afternoon.

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"It was a surprise to us," Mr. Scotch says. From their hometown in Boston, the couple travelled to Toronto via Montreal four days ago to visit friends. It's a trip they make every year. Now they are headed back home.

This year, they were shocked to discover some of the Toronto downtown core behind a fence.

Mr. Scotch says he wasn't bothered and that he always enjoys Toronto.

The couple just celebrated their 56th anniversary and they have a back- and-forth banter to describe their taxi ride to the airport from downtown.

"It was packed downtown," says Mr. Scotch, "but our taxi driver had all this technology to detect traffic."

"Like GPS," Ms. Scotch chimes in.

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Mr. Scotch continues, "That driver was smart, he went around the lake..."

"It's called Lakeshore," Ms. Scotch interrupts.

Mr. Scotch sighs. "Thanks, dear."

While many people are escaping Toronto, Jeff Chochinov landed at the airport in the morning. Mr. Chochinov, who works in marketing for Rubbermaid, arrived from Mexico and was headed to his home in the city's west end after four days away.

"I have no idea what I'm in for," he says.

Ciro Vitolo was the only Airline Limousine driver waiting outside the Terminal One arrivals area, with his arms crossed and his trunk popped open for passenger luggage.

When a young man emerged from the sliding doors with luggage, Mr. Vitolo rushed to throw the passenger's duffel bag into the car. He left the area empty save for a few neon-clad ground crew with walkie-talkies.

Michael Bulner, a driver with Robert Q, one of the companies operating out of the airport's ground transit booth, says traffic was light on his way to work from his London, Ont., home. "And there's been little traffic here," he said, gesturing to the empty stretch of carpet in front of his booth. Mornings can be slow, he says, but not this slow.

Mornings can be slow, he said, but not this slow. The booth operates 22-hours day, so he's seen his share of early mornings.

He said it's mainly business people who have transportation arranged for Friday heading to the services locations outside Toronto in Kingston, Detroit and Buffalo.

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