During the last two summer seasons of 2021 and 2022, we saw a phenomenon of “catch-up travel” or Revenge Travel, where the passage to the airport was harder. This is what is coming again for the 2023 summer season.
Going through the airport: basic rules
First of all, here are a few things you need to know for a smooth airport experience.
Before starting your vacation, you will have to pass the security check. This is when you should empty your water bottle, remove your laptop and remove the contents of your pockets.
You must go through security before all flights, whether in Canada or abroad. However, some airports have an international zone where you can make a connection without having to go through security again.
However, if you need to change your terminal, it is likely that you will have to leave this area.
Going through the customs
The difference between passing security and customs is:
- Safety: check if you pose a danger to the aircraft
- Customs: check if you pose a danger to the country
So, when you go through the airport, customs (or immigration) is in place to determine if you are eligible to enter or leave a country.
In addition, customs are present at the airport to control the entry of certain goods, whether legal or illegal. For example, there is a limit to how much alcohol you can bring back to Canada when customs in Australia will seize your bag of beef jerky.
At the beginning of the journey
In Canadian terminals, you do not go through customs when you leave for your vacation unless your vacation includes a flight segment to the United States.
The U.S. borders are located in a separate terminal at most Canadian airports. So you are in “American territory” before boarding the plane.
For all international travel (except the United States), you will pass through border control upon arrival at your destination in the country after your flight.
Back from vacation
When you return to Canada from abroad, you will clear Canadian customs at your first point of entry into the country, regardless of where you are travelling from. So, vacationers returning from New York or Italy will follow the same procedure.
Then, if you have a connection in the U.S. on your way back, you will also have to go through U.S. customs on your way through the airport.
Do we have to pick up our luggage when we have a connection?
The general rule, if all your flights are on the same reservation, is :
- Departure to Canada, the United States or any other international destination: checked baggage will follow until the end
- Return to Canada: Checked baggage follows to the final destination when you arrive from Europe and your point of entry is in Toronto or Montreal.
- Return to Canada via an international stopover: same as above
- Return to Canada via the U.S.: checked baggage usually follows depending on where you are coming from. Please check with the agent at check-in.
Indeed, the return is more difficult to untangle than the departure. Here are some examples to better understand the rules of baggage clearance (baggage claim) when returning from a trip.
|Paris-Toronto-Quebec||Toronto (luggage should follow)|
|Hawaii-Toronto-Québec||Toronto (luggage should follow)|
|Istanbul-Munich-Montreal||Montreal (luggage should follow)|
Any exceptions? Unfortunately yes, some terminals and some companies sometimes deviate from these general rules.
Our advice if you receive instructions to the contrary? Take the time to check the baggage carousels at your Canadian and U.S. ports of entry to make sure your bags have followed.
The current situation in Canadian airports
Travel has definitely resumed and the situation is evident at the airports.
In the three major Canadian hubs (Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver), traffic is very high. It is important to understand the causes of the inconveniences that can occur when one experiences frustration while going through the airport:
- Revenge travel: many people are now ready to leave
- Shortage of staff: this problem is felt at the airline level (few agents at the counters, lack of crew) and at the border services level (few agents for customs clearance)
So the workload is increased while the staff to meet it is insufficient or decreased.
To make your passage through the airport more pleasant, it is advisable to arrive at least 3 hours in advance and even more; in the event that you can get through quickly, you can rest in a lounge!
Nexus and Global Entry
Another cost-effective option to cut through the lines when going through the airport is with the Nexus and Global Entry cards.
Recently, I have been able to take advantage of this benefit at the Montreal and Toronto airports and in the United States. I was able to get to my gate quickly while there were zigzags of people as far as the eye could see in the regular lines. I made it through in less than 15-20 minutes each time.
On the way back, with Nexus, I was able to avoid the mass for the border control and I was able to take the Nexus priority line to exit the terminal while the crowd has to do another line, with their luggage, before leaving.
Some credit cards, like the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card, even offer a statement credit for a Nexus membership.
However, new applicants will hit a wall if the intention is to get Nexus by this summer; appointments have resumed, but availability at Canadian airports is only for December at the time of writing!
The perks of credit cards
If you can’t apply for the Nexus program, you can receive similar benefits with a premium credit card.
In fact, credit cards in the “Visa Infinite Privilege” line such as the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege* Credit Card and the Platinum Card® allow cardholders to quickly pass through security checkpoints.
These priority lines are usually adjacent to Nexus queues.