Travelers are advised to arrive at Vancouver airport hours before their flight as security screening causes delays

As COVID-19 travel restrictions continue to ease, passengers with flights departing Vancouver International Airport are being asked to arrive hours before 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 am flight by probably two minutes because of these extraordinarily and unnecessarily long security lines,” Low told CBC News.

“I arrived at the specified time, but they totally closed a security gate.”

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

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

Staff shortages contribute to delays

Mike McNaney, director of external affairs at Vancouver International Airport, said the ongoing shortage of staff at the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) is contributing to the long lines and long delays in processing passengers by security at the airport.

CATSA is the federal crown corporation responsible for all passenger safety checks.

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

“What we’ve seen in the last 24 to 48 hours are delays that we haven’t seen here before and that were worse than anything we’ve previously experienced during the pandemic,” McNaney told CBC News.

He said the airport handles around 45,000 passengers a day and expects that number to increase with the busy summer travel season approaching.

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

In an emailed statement to the CBC, CATSA said it is advising passengers to arrive two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for US and international flights.

“As air travel recovers, we are seeing simultaneous spikes that could result in passengers flooding more than one security checkpoint at the same time, making redeploying resources to meet these passenger volumes more challenging,” he said.

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