A staff shortage at CATSA has resulted in long queues at major airports in recent weeks with passenger volumes returning to levels not seen since before the pandemic, with only a fraction of security screening officers.
The head of a national association representing airport security inspectors told the Daily Hive that the problem could persist through the summer because it wouldn’t be a quick fix to hire and train enough people to move the lines again.
In the meantime, passengers trying to catch a flight in Canada may want to check the lineup status on CATSA’s online tracker.
The security authority is publishing waiting times for 14 airports across the country by scanning passengers’ boarding passes as they enter the queue and again as they pass through the checkpoint.
CATSA notes that these times do not take into account the additional time passengers need to drop a checked bag, check bags at security, pass customs for a US flight, or walk to the boarding gate.
“The waiting times shown here are provided for convenience only and are not intended as a substitute for proper preparation prior to departure for the airport,” CATSA says on its website.
The longest waiting times published on Monday were in Vancouver and Toronto.
Security lines can vary depending on the number of flights taking off simultaneously, but staff told the Daily Hive that only a fraction of the security lines can be opened at the moment because there aren’t enough staff to operate at full capacity. In Vancouver, only five out of 14 security lines opened in the past week, and Ottawa International Airport was able to open only two out of five domestic lines.
– Kenneth Chan (@iamkennethchan) May 3, 2022
CATSA’s CEO apologized for the long wait times last week, and YVR asked people to show up three hours before the flight was scheduled to.
Travelers shared different experiences on social media, with some saying they arrived three hours early, while others said that waiting in line was a real test of patience.
“To all the girls who tell me YVR airport security is too long and to show up three hours before my flight: Go [expletive] “You yourself, now I’m here three hours before my flight,” TikTokoofelyk user said on May 6.
oofelyk spending $20 on a glass of airport wine isn’t sentiment #yvr #airport #yvrairport #security #traveltok #fyp #vancoffee ♬ original sound – 🍪
But things were different at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport at 4 a.m. two days later.
“Just in case anyone’s wondering if fonts are really bad – they are,” TikTok userjennweatherhead said on May 8.
jennweatherhead #Securitylines at #Pearsonairport at 4am 🙄 #happeningnowtoronto #torontopearsonairport #torontopearson #airports #airportsecurity #travelisback #fyptoronto #fyp ♬ Original audio – Jenn Weatherhead Travel ✈️🧳🌎
Employees spoke to DailyHive with low wages and difficult working conditions contributing to the staff shortage. In some cases, employees have to delay bathroom breaks until a qualified person can replace them at their station.
Employees say they are expected to maintain a fast pace of work while maintaining accuracy. A manager in Ottawa told the Daily Hive that if a CATSA auditor detects an officer slipping, his qualifications to operate the machinery could be disqualified, further slowing the line.
Ottawa security checks made between $19 and $23 an hour. In Vancouver, they earn even less, between $18 and $22 an hour. For many, that’s less than the Canadian Center for Alternative Policy’s living wage in Metro Vancouver: $20.52 an hour as of 2021.
Both workers and their union are asking for patience from the public as they deal with long lines and asking travelers to do their part to speed things up by packing liquids in gels in a clear plastic bag.