7 Things You Need To Know Before Going To The Airport If You Want To Avoid Long Lines & Delays

Canadian airports are experiencing significant wait times right now. ✈️

Trending Editor
The sun sets through a window in the waiting area at Winnipeg Airport. Right: An empty baggage claim carousel at the airport.

The sun sets through a window in the waiting area at Winnipeg Airport. Right: An empty baggage claim carousel at the airport.

If you're catching a flight from one of Canada's airports in the near future, there are a few things you need to know before you get going.

Thanks to staffing shortages and increasd post-pandemic demand for travel, many of the country's major airports are experiencing lengthy delays, particularly at check-in desks and security checkpoints.

Canada's Transport Minister suggested this week that unprepared travellers have been — in part — to blame for the hold-ups.

He said several years of staying at home due to the pandemic has caused passengers to forget processes at the airport, particularly at security checkpoints.

Both airlines and airports are encouraging travellers to arrive hours ahead of their scheduled departure in order to avoid rushing through the airport and potentially missing their flight.

Major hubs like Toronto Pearson and Vancouver International Airport have also been warning visitors that "your airport experience will be different than previous trips," so it's important to be prepared and know what to expect before you get going.

Check wait times in advance

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has a useful online tool that allows passengers to check the security screening wait times at airports all over the country.

Using this can help you to get an indication of how busy an airport is at any given time. It can also help you work out how much time you should allow to get through security checkpoints at your departure location.

It's worth keeping in mind that the information listed does not include the time required to check-in and drop off and process baggage, so don't forget to add that on!

Arrive early

Due to long lines and delays, both airlines and airports have been urging travellers to arrive much earlier than they would have previously.

For international travel (including trips to the United States), you should plan to be at the airport at least three hours prior to your scheduled departure time.

Those flying domestically should arrive a minimum of two hours in advance, to avoid being caught out by unexpected queues or hold-ups.

After all, it's much better to be waiting around for the plane than to have the plane waiting around for you!

Check your documents

If you haven't travelled for a while because of the pandemic, it's easy to have forgotten exactly what you'll need when travelling through the airport.

CATSA says you should keep your passport or photo ID and boarding pass on hand, so they're ready for security personnel to check them should they need to.

You should also consider what COVID-19 documentation you may need to show, including your proof of vaccination and proof of a negative COVID-19 test (if one is required at your destination).

Understand baggage rules

If you're taking a checked bag and a carry-on item, it's important to make sure you put the right stuff in each of those to ensure you don't get waylaid at security checkpoints.

CATSA says you should check and double-check your carry-on baggage before you leave your home, to ensure you haven't packed anything "that may seem harmless but can pose a threat to security – such as liquids."

If you're not 100% sure if you can take it with you on the plane, contact the airline you're flying with or throw it in your checked baggage to be on the safe side.

Be ready at security checkpoints

If you want to breeze through security, remind yourself ahead of time what should and shouldn't be placed in the screening bins.

CATSA says cell phones should be put in your carry-on bag (if it isn't being used as your boarding pass), while laptops should be taken out of any cases, bags or sleeves and placed width-wise in the plastic security bin.

Any outerwear, including bulky clothing items and winter coats, should be taken off and placed in the bin, too.

All liquids, gels and aerosols that are in your carry-on baggage must be in containers of 100ml or less and placed in a clear, 1L resealable bag. If they're not, you could have them taken away from you.

Expect to follow COVID-19 policies

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated policies related to cleaning, social distancing and more, you may find that there are less desks, checkpoints and washrooms open.

Most airports will have hand sanitizer stations located at busy sections, as well as plexiglass barriers where appropriate.

Face masks are still required by the federal government at Canadian airports all over the country, as well as on flights, so don't forget to pack an appropriate face covering!

Be prepared to wait

Regardless of how prepared you are, you should still expect to wait around a little bit if you're heading to an airport in the near future.

Many Canadian airports continue to deal with staff shortages and a surge in demand for post-pandemic travel, so longer lines are still likely. This is especially the case at busy locations like Toronto Pearson or Vancouver International.

Good luck, Canada!

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

Helena Hanson
Trending Editor
Helena Hanson is a Senior Editor for Narcity Canada's Trending Desk focused on major news. She previously lived in Ottawa, but is now based in the U.K.
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