Security wait times improve at Vancouver Airport, with staffing now back to normal

Jun 16 2022, 9:15 pm

Snaking long lines for security checkpoints at Canada’s major international airports have been a persistent problem in recent months, but the federal government now says conditions have turned a real corner towards improvement.

This follows the hiring of nearly 900 more Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) screening officers across Canada since April, with the results of the added workforce now being realized.

According to a bulletin by Transport Canada on Wednesday, CATSA has now met its summer hiring target, and matched its pre-pandemic 2019 staffing levels at the country’s four largest airports.

During the week of June 3 to 9, an average of 13% of departing passengers waiting for more than 15 minutes at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) — down from 26% of departing passengers who waited more than 15 minutes over the week of May 9 to 15.

Over the same periods, Toronto Pearson International Airport’s (YYZ) wait times improved from the average of 26% to average of 13% for departing passengers who waited more than 15 minutes. The issues at YYZ have been particularly severe.

As another measure to improve wait times at airports, the federal government suspended random COVID-19 testing for vaccinated arrivals passengers at the airport terminals from June 11 to June 30, but unvaccinated passengers will still be tested on-site during this period. Starting on July 1, all testing for both vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers will be conducted off-site. This frees up the limited airport terminal space for processing passengers.

“The Government of Canada recognizes the impact that significant wait times at some Canadian airports are having on travellers. We continue to work with airports, airlines, baggage handlers, and other partners to implement solutions to reduce delays as we approach the summer peak season,” reads a statement from Transport Canada.

“Our efforts are having a positive impact. Current traveller wait times for pre-board passenger screening at Canadian airports continue to decrease.”

However, even with the improved wait times, YVR is still strongly recommending passengers to arrive early as a precaution to ensure they do not miss their flight — at least three hours before a scheduled US or international flight, and at least two hours before a scheduled domestic flight.

“Similar to other large airports in Canada, at various points in the day passengers at YVR could experience long lines for security screening at the CATSA checkpoints. We are strongly encouraging passengers to be patient and be prepared,” reads a statement by the Vancouver Airport Authority to Daily Hive Urbanized, noting that “while the airport is busy, we are currently experiencing no delays.”

YVR’s passenger volumes have now recovered to over 50,000 passengers daily, and with the continued rate of regrowth it could see its passenger volumes recover to pre-pandemic 2019 levels later this summer — years earlier than originally anticipated. Prior to the pandemic, the airport regularly roughly recorded between 60,000 and 80,000 passengers daily.

To open up the required capacity needed to accommodate the busiest travel season in years, earlier this month, YVR opened its Pier D international terminal building expansion for full use. The $300 million expansion reached completion in early 2021, but the building was largely unused until now due to the previous depressed passenger volumes.

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