Travelers are advised to arrive at Vancouver Airport a few hours before the flight as security screening causes delays

As COVID-19 travel restrictions continue to ease, passengers departing from Vancouver International Airport are 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 a few minutes due to a long delay at the passenger security gate.

“I had to miss my 9:05 a.m. flight by probably two minutes because of these extraordinarily and unnecessarily long security lines,” Low told CBC News.

“I arrived at the stated time but they had completely closed a security gate.”

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

“We have communication technologies where companies can notify people within minutes, so there’s no reason not to notify, there’s no reason for those unnecessary delays.”

Staff shortages contribute to delays

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

CATSA is the federal Crown corporation responsible for all passenger security screening.

Travelers at Vancouver International Airport in March 2020. An ongoing staff shortage at the company responsible for passenger security screening is contributing to long lines at the airport, said Mike McNaney, its business manager exterior. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“What we’ve seen in the past 24 to 48 hours are delays that we’ve never seen here before that were worse than anything we’ve experienced before throughout the pandemic,” said McNaney to CBC News.

He said the airport handles around 45,000 passengers a day and they expected that number to increase with the upcoming busy summer season.

“We certainly have concerns about the summer schedule when demand increases even more and what we now expect from CATSA management is their short-term plan to meet the challenges.”

In an email statement to CBC, CATSA said it advises passengers to arrive two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for US and international flights.

“As air travel resumes, we are seeing simultaneous spikes that can result in multiple security checkpoints being flooded by passengers simultaneously, making it more difficult to reallocate resources to cope with these passenger volumes,” did he declare.