0

Consider a passenger with a connecting flight itinerary X->Y->Z, where X is an airport outside of Canada, and Y and Z are two airports in Canada. In other words, at airport Y the passenger has an international-to-domestic connection. As airport Y is the passenger's point of entry into Canada, they must pass through Canada Border Services Agency (customs) inspection upon arrival at airport Y prior to proceeding to their connecting flight to Z.

Historically, this has usually meant that the passenger must collect their checked baggage from the baggage carousel in the international arrivals/baggage-claim area at airport Y (along with all the passengers whose trip is ending at Y), take their luggage through the customs check at the exit from the international arrivals hall, and then drop their luggage on the connection drop-off belt. The passenger then finds themselves located in the public (land-side) area of the airport, and needs to proceed to the departures area, through CATSA pre-board security screening (along with all the passengers whose trip is beginning at Y) in order to proceed to their departure gate for their flight to Z.

Under the best of circumstances, the procedure described above is a hassle, requiring significantly longer connection times than (for example) a standard domestic-to-domestic connection where the passenger doesn't see their checked luggage at the connecting airport, has no need for a security re-screening, and just proceeds straight from the arrival gate to their departure gate within the airside (secure) departures area. Furthermore, if the airport is particularly busy, then the queues and delays in any of the steps outlined above can cause the passenger to miss their connecting flight.

My impression is that in recent years there has been a trend to remove the necessity for some of the above steps at some Canadian airports and in some circumstances. I recall seeing signs at Toronto Pearson Airport directing connecting passengers from certain points of origin through a path apparently allowing them to bypass baggage claim and/or security re-screening. (I was not eligible to follow that path at the time.)

Thus, I understand that the simple answer to the literal title question is: "It depends."

The real question, then, is:

Under what circumstances does an international-to-domestic flight connection at a Canadian airport require baggage claim and drop-off and/or pre-board security (CATSA) re-screening at the connecting airport?

I imagine that a complete answer would require considering various distinguishing factors:

  • the particular airport (or airport terminal) where the international-to-domestic connection is taking place (called Y in my description above); AND
  • the airport or country or origin of the arriving international flight (called X in my description above); AND
  • the airline(s) involved; AND
  • whether or not the passenger has any checked luggage.

For every combination of inputs as above (and possibly others that I haven't thought of), one should be able to determine which one of the following sequences applies to the passenger at the point of arrival in Canada (airport Y):

  • The passenger is required to collect and drop-off their baggage as part of passing through Canada Customs, and then proceed through CATSA security screening (the historical way); OR
  • The passenger does not have to claim their baggage when passing through Canada Customs as a connecting passenger, but nevertheless must pass through CATSA security screening on their way to the departure gate; OR
  • The passenger does not need to claim their baggage and does not need to pass through CATSA screening - there is some direct airside path from CBSA inspection directly to the (domestic) departure gate area; OR
  • Some other option I haven't thought of.

Thus, a complete answer could take the form of a flowchart-based description somewhat akin to this type of answer.

The value of a complete answer to this question is the following: When planning a trip from a foreign country to Canada, a potential passenger may be considering several possible itineraries using various airlines and/or connection points. If one such itinerary requires more hassle at the point of entry into Canada than another, then that distinction may influence the passenger's choice of itinerary.

For simplicity, we may assume:

  • The whole trip is on a single ticket/PNR; AND
  • The luggage is nominally "checked through" (in the sense of being tagged) to the final destination Z when the passenger checks in for their trip at X.

For completeness, I suggest including the possibility that the airport of origin (X) is in the United States, despite the fact that in the terminology of Canadian air travel the USA is not usually called "international".

6
  • 1
    The answer is simple: you will be told what to do. Repeatedly, at multiple points. At check in, at deplaning, not unlikely in the terminal too.
    – user4188
    Jul 21, 2022 at 21:31
  • Easiest way to get your answer with any level of certainty is just call your airline..
    – Ozzy
    Jul 21, 2022 at 21:41
  • @chx The point is to know at the planning stage, in order to discern between itineraries that require more or less hassle at the connection points. Jul 21, 2022 at 21:51
  • In almost all cases you will have to deal with the "full hassle" . There may be a few exceptions but it feels like too much work go find them. It can also vary from day to day: I was connecting US to international in YYZ and about to go landside when an officer asked us "hey, where are you guys going". I told him and he opened an unmarked door for us and we ended up in the departure terminal without having to go through security again.
    – Hilmar
    Jul 21, 2022 at 21:58
  • Here is the single rule of checked in luggage for 2022 summer you should follow: do not do it. It will get delayed or lost and you will be in a world of pain to get it back or compensated. Maybe later it'll be OK to check luggage again but for now, this is not a good idea. Example article: dailyhive.com/vancouver/air-canada-luggage-on-tarmac
    – user4188
    Jul 22, 2022 at 4:15

1 Answer 1

6

It depends on your departure country and airport, your port of entry in Canada as well the airlines operating the two flights.

The base rules are that you have to pick up your baggage and exit customs at your first port of entry and that you have to pass through security again.

Even if an exemption may be available, for operational and other reasons (e.g. arrangement of terminals), the crew, airport staffs or government officials may give you specific directions while arriving.

Both arrangements described below are not mandatory and depend on the participation of the specific airport and carrier.

And for summer 2022 at least, everything you read below (or anywhere) may or may not apply as everything is a mess at every (Canadian) airport for any airlines no matter where you are going to or arriving from.

Security

One Stop Security (OSS) is the arrangement where Canada recognizes adequecy of the security screening of another country and may exempt transit passengers from additional screening if the infrastructure allows.

Currently, OSS is possible (but not mandatory and not always available) for European (EU/EEA/Switzerland), Australian and U.S. arrivals. All departure points on the ticket may matter. Airports may have restrictions that apply to passengers who departed from an airport outside OSS countries recognized by Canada (e.g. Japan-EU-Canada).

Baggage

The International to Domestic Connections Process (ITD Process) is the arrangement between CBSA and airport operators that may allow airlines to directly transport arriving baggage to the final destination.

CBSA reserves the power to recall/inspect an arriving luggage at any point in the process.

The availability depends on the departure point, the airport and the airlines.

Tools

Some Canadian airlines and international airports have connection tools available that may inform you regarding the possibilities to benefit from these facilities.

For example, Air Canada's page on international-to-domestic connections at Toronto Pearson (YYZ) lists the availability of checked-through baggage. At Vancouver (YVR), all Air Canada international arrivals may benefit from ITD baggage transport.

Forums like Flyertalk may also be helpful.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .