Connecting flights in Canada can be complex to understand as regulations are often changing. Even if there are guidelines across the airports’ official websites, you should always double-check with the on-site staff.
Connecting Flights in Canada - The general rules
The rules regarding flight connections in Canada for domestic routes are pretty straightforward as they are with transborder destinations.
It gets puzzling when you connect internationally to Canada or the USA; it will depend on the country you are coming from, as there are ‘’trusted airports“ where you will have fewer procedures to go through with your connecting flights in Canada.
While we encourage travelling with carry-on luggage to avoid some hassle, it’s sometimes impossible. How do you know if you need to pick up your suitcase mid-itinerary then?
As things often change, you can use Air Canada’s tool for connecting flights in Canada to find the correct information quickly.
Here is a summary of the general rules:
|Itinerary||Canadian Border Control||Luggage||Security Screening||American Border Control|
|Canada → Canada||No||No||No||N/A|
|Canada → USA||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Canada → International||No||No||No||N/A|
|USA → Canada||Yes||No||No||No|
|USA → International||No: in Toronto or Vancouver||No*||No||No|
|Yes: in Montreal|
|International → Canada||Yes||Maybe: on select flights, luggage is checked through||No: when connecting in Toronto or Montreal from Europe||N/A|
|Yes: when connecting in Vancouver or for flights from destinations outside Europe into Toronto or Montreal.|
|International → USA||No||No*||Yes||Yes|
|International → International||No: when connecting in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver||No*||No: when connecting from Europe||N/A|
|Yes: for all other destinations|
*Unless advised otherwise
Do you need a transit visa or and eTA for connecting flights in Canada?
Citizens of certain countries may require a visa or eTA to board connecting flights in Canada as they need to enter the country. As a matter of fact, you might have to obtain a transit visa even if you stay on the ground for under 48 hours, depending on your nationality.
Check the official Government of Canada Immigration website (link here) for the most accurate and up-to-date information.
Connecting Flights in Canada - Lounge Access
Airport lounges are a great way to make it more enjoyable on long layovers between connecting flights in Canada. They offer a welcoming and peaceful space to rest, relax or work away from the crowds and noise of the concourse.
Many lounges feature amenities such as comfortable seating, Wi-Fi, refreshments and snacks, business centres and even shower facilities in some cases.
While admittance to lounges can be advertised as restricted to specific frequent fliers or premium cabin passengers, several credit cards can provide entry. Depending on your itinerary and credit card folio, you can use the LoungeBuddy application to find out which one will welcome you.
One option to consider when you often have connecting flights in Canada is the The Platinum Card® from American Express. It gives unlimited free access (for the holder, a guest and two children under the age of 21) to over 1000 different lounges in Canada and worldwide.
Alternatively, the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite* Card also provides up to 6 admissions through the DragonPass program. This card has no currency exchange fee on transactions abroad and is less costly to keep in the long term, so it should be considered if you have connecting flights in Canada from time to time.
Unless you always fly in and out from a major airport in the country, you will likely face connecting flights in Canada eventually.
The general rules can sometimes be confusing. But after sorting that out, head to a lounge to freshen up before your next flight!