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I'm going on vacation this coming Saturday (October 15, 2022). My flight leaves at 9:15am and I want to know how early I should be at the airport. I haven't traveled since 2020 (pre-covid), where I used to be able to clear bag check and security (and customs, where that was relevant) in under 20 minutes with my Nexus card, but apparently the situation has significantly changed due to covid.

How early should I be at the airport before my flight? If I need to be there 3 hours before my flight (6:15am) I might need to take an Uber; if I can arrive 2 or fewer hours before the flight then I can save a significant amount of money by taking public transit.

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  • 2
    Are you going to a domestic destination in Canada, to the U.S. or to another country?
    – xngtng
    Oct 12, 2022 at 19:09
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    International, with a domestic stopover. For privacy reasons I'm not going to say where I'm going precisely.
    – Ertai87
    Oct 12, 2022 at 20:02
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    Honestly, I'm not sure how this question can be answered. Even pre-covid, I've had long lines and delays at the airport, where, despite having shown up the suggested 2 hours early (US domestic flight) I was dashing from security to the gate and getting on the plane out of breath. Post-covid, I've gotten to the airport 2+ hours early, breezed through security (Chicago O'Hare), and had time for a nap at the gate before boarding. #ItDepends just as much now as ever...
    – FreeMan
    Oct 13, 2022 at 11:47
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    Easy to forget when you haven't used private transport in a while but Uber isn't the only option – booking a cab in advance might well be cheaper and also means you don't have to worry about a driver being nearby and active at the right time.
    – dbmag9
    Oct 13, 2022 at 12:51
  • @dbmag9 YYZ has fixed rate taxi fares too, with a tariff listing linked on this page torontopearson.com/en/transportation-and-parking/…
    – llama
    Oct 13, 2022 at 18:40

2 Answers 2

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Pearson has been recommending 3 hours for international flights for a long time now. I have been playing along, and seeing huge lines I am not in. I have some status with the airline I fly most, so I skip a huge line, and Nexus, so I can use a much shorter security line for domestic and international flights, and that same Nexus means that for US flights it's quick too, and I seem to end up sitting at the gate for two hours.

Still, I see plenty of people who are red faced, flustered, angry, trying to get let into the front of lines because they're worried they will miss their plane, yelling at random strangers in front of them to hurry up, and generally having a really unpleasant hour. I have no desire to switch over to that team by waiting a little longer until I get to the airport. I understand you have a sort of "elbow" around public transit, but I would still recommend you follow the 3 hour suggestion for an international flight. Weird long delays do spring up (sorry, we have half the security staff we usually do) and while a cab is expensive, it's cheaper than a new plane ticket.

Note: you don't mention whether your domestic connection is in your target country, or in Canada. If your first flight is to another Canadian airport you don't need to be there 3 hours before. Air Canada, for example, suggests 2 hours for domestic flights.

FYI my flights this year were April, May, and August in Terminal 1 (all international) and September (cross border) in Terminal 3.

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  • Wow, that's a lot of flights in a short period of time! Oct 13, 2022 at 14:33
  • That's actually a slow year for me. Just four trips, none personal. Oct 13, 2022 at 14:36
  • OP does have a Nexus card though? Sounds like they should be just fine arriving 2 hours in advance.
    – JonathanReez
    Oct 18, 2022 at 16:14
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If you have a domestic stopover in Canada, your experience at the Toronto airport is essentially the same as if you were flying just domestically (other than the additional document check at the counter when you check in).

Other than for the U.S. preclearance, the queues are more or less normal now, at least in late August, especially if you have a Nexus card (which is valid for fast security lane regardless of your destination). The airport provides a list of busy times, with pictures of past queues as a reference: https://www.torontopearson.com/en/status

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