Travellers advised to arrive at Vancouver airport hours before flight as security screening causes delays

As COVID-19 travel restrictions continue to ease, passengers with flights departing from Vancouver International Airport are being asked to arrive hours ahead of their scheduled flights.

Joni Low said she arrived 90 minutes before her scheduled flight to Saskatoon earlier this week, only to miss it by minutes because of a long delay at the passenger security screening gate.

“I must have missed my 9:05 a.m. flight by probably two minutes because of these extraordinarily and unnecessarily long security lineups,” Low told CBC News. 

“I arrived at the specified time but they had entirely closed a security gate.”

She said the long lineup stretched the entire length of the airport, and by the time she passed security, her flight had already taken off.

“We have communication technologies where businesses can let people know in a matter of minutes, so there’s no reason not to notify, there’s no reason for these unnecessary delays.”

Staffing shortages contribute to delays

Mike McNaney, chief external affairs officer at the Vancouver International Airport, said an ongoing staffing shortage at the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) is contributing to the long lines and lengthy delays in processing passengers through security at the airport.

CATSA is the federal crown corporation that’s responsible for all passenger security screening.

Travellers at the Vancouver International Airport in March 2020. An ongoing staff shortage at the corporation responsible for passenger security screening is contributing to the long lines at the airport, said Mike McNaney, its chief external affairs officer. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“What we saw in the last 24 to 48 hours were delays that we have not seen here before and were worse than anything that we have previously experienced throughout the pandemic,” McNaney told CBC News.

He said the airport has been welcoming about 45,000 passengers per day and they expect that number to increase with the busy upcoming summer travel season.

“We certainly have concerns about the summer schedule when the demand will increase even further and what we are looking for now from CATSA management is their plan in the short-term to address the challenges.”

In an email statement to CBC, CATSA said it is advising passengers to arrive two hours in advance for domestic flights and three hours in advance for U.S. and international flights.

“As air travel recovers, we are observing simultaneous peaks which can result in passengers flooding more than one security checkpoint at one time, making the redistribution of resources to address these passenger volumes more challenging,” it said.

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