38

There are two questions that I have already found on the site that attempt to answer certain parts of my question (Canadian citizen, on US no-fly list. What can I do in order to be allowed on flights which go through US airspace? and How do I find flights that avoid US airspace?). They do not fully address my concerns so I am hoping I can get more information here.

I am writing to gather information for a client. They are a Canadian citizen and are, unfortunately, on the US no-fly list. Their listing is related to something that happened almost 20 years ago when they were a teenager. They have since moved on and are living a law-abiding and productive life while meaningfully contributing to society through their profession. They were put on the Canadian no-fly list as well but successfully challenged that a few years ago demonstrating that the criteria do not apply to them today.

After being taken off the Canadian no-fly list, the client successfully applied for a Canadian passport. Of note is that a Canadian passport can be refused if the Minister has reasonable grounds to believe that the decision is necessary to prevent the commission of a terrorism offence, as defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code, or for the national security of Canada or a foreign country or state. Despite this criterion, the client received their passport subsequent to an expeditious secondary examination after submitting the application.

The client has travelled domestically in Canada (subsequent to being taken off the Canadian no-fly list). However, when attempting their first international flight, they were denied boarding and told that it had to do with US regulations. They chose a flight route to that they believed would avoid US airspace (Toronto to Reykjavik). However, their current research is concluding that all flights originating from Toronto (and probably Vancouver as well) will have to share their APIS information with the US, since they are so close to the border.

Can anyone confirm this or provide any additional information that may be helpful? The client is exploring the DHS TRIP application process to take their name off any US no-fly list. However, given the fact that they are not a US citizen, it will be of limited help since there is no confirmation provided to non-US citizens.

Is there a way to determine which flights will avoid US airspace, or more precisely, will not be required to provide the APIS information which may be preventing them from flying? The client is aware that flights out of Calgary and Halifax are an option. However, they are trying to determine if there are any flights that they might be able to currently take out of Toronto.


Additional information:

Thank you for everyone's responses. We have found some additional information that may be of assistance in figuring all of this out.

  1. "Continental United States"

It seems that flights that go over Alaska or Hawaii are not part of the US Secure Flight Program. As such, in response to one of the answers below, the research shows that westerly flights from Calgary to Tokyo might be options. Flights out of Vancouver likely face the same issue as those out of Toronto or Montreal because it is so close to the border. The definition of "Continental United States" as not including Alaska or Hawaii is taken from the Privacy Impact Assessment Update on page 7:

Secure Flight collects and retains full name, date of birth, gender, redress number (if available), known traveler number (if implemented and available), and passport information (if available) for domestic flights and international flights arriving in, departing from, or overflying the continental United States (defined as the 48 lower contiguous states), as well as international flights operated by U.S. carriers.

Also in the Code of Federal Regulations:

Overflying the continental United States means departing from an airport or location outside the United States and transiting the airspace of the continental United States en route to another airport or location outside the United States. Airspace of the continental United States includes the airspace over the lower 48 states of the United States, not including Alaska or Hawaii, and the airspace overlying the territorial waters between the U.S. coast of the lower 48 states and 12 nautical miles from the continental U.S. coast. Overflying the continental United States does not apply to:

  1. Flights that transit the airspace of the continental United States between two airports or locations in the same country, where that country is Canada or Mexico; or

  2. Any other category of flights that the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security (Transportation Security Administration) designates in a notice in the Federal Register.

  1. "U.S. carriers"

    It seems that the rules will also apply to flights anywhere in the world that are operated by U.S. air carriers. As such, the research seems to show that even if the client can avoid U.S. airspace flying out of Canada, they still may not be able to fly if they are on a U.S. carrier. Any such flight would require the sharing of APIS information. Does anyone have any information on whether foreign air carriers are shared as U.S. air carriers? Can the refusal to board from Toronto to Reykjavik be explained because the Icelandic Air carrier is considered a U.S. air carrier, or was that more likely because of the proximity of the Toronto Airport to the U.S. border?

  2. Flight information

    Some of the flights suggested cannot be found on regular travel booking websites. For example, a flight was suggested from St. John's to Madrid. Although the flights appear on FlightRadar24 here, it does not seem they can be found on the Air Canada booking system. Does anyone know why this is the case?

18
  • 6
    You do not need to be a US citizen to use DHS TRIP. I have been through this process and have a redress number as a result, and I am not a US citizen. (I was never on a "blacklist", but I was clearly on some form of list as I was repeatedly subject to extra security, which stopped once I received my Redress number)
    – Doc
    Jan 31, 2023 at 19:28
  • 3
    Sorry, I should have added certain extra details in the question. The client does not have any issue travelling domestically within Canada if the flight crosses US Airspace. The issue is only for an international flight that is originating in Canada and going anywhere else. The US no-fly list does not affect domestic Canadian flights even if they fly over US airspace. Jan 31, 2023 at 20:28
  • 23
    As an aside, there was a recent leak of the US no fly list, if somehow you managed to cough look at it cough you might find out some details about what the US government thinks about your client - which could be beneficial to challenging it.
    – Peter M
    Jan 31, 2023 at 23:09
  • 4
    @Mark Morgan We are not relying on this information in itself but just using it to steer the research in the right direction. There are not many resources available on this issue and so, anecdotal information has been genuinely helpful. Feb 2, 2023 at 20:48
  • 5
    If you have follow-up questions, the custom on this forum is to post new questions (possibly with links back to the original question) rather than editing your original post. This forum operates on a pretty strict "one-question-per-post" policy because the question-and-answer format has trouble with multiple questions in a single post. I would recommend that you revert your post to its original version and post the questions in items #2 and #3 separately. Feb 3, 2023 at 1:25

5 Answers 5

35

If all international flights out of Canada are out, one option might remain. It's possible to travel between Canada and Europe taking only domestic flights.

Air Saint Pierre has seasonal direct flights (weekly in summer) between Saint Pierre Airport (FSP) to Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG). Saint Pierre is in Saint Pierre et Miquelon, off the coast of the Burin Peninsula in Newfoundland. It belongs to France, so flights from Saint Pierre to Paris are domestic flights. The client could fly from anywhere in Canada to St. Johns (Newfoundland), then travel by road and ferry to Saint Pierre. As of 2023, Foote's taxi runs a bus service from St. John's to the ferry quay in Fortune for $60 (thanks user1908704 for the comment). When those are not running, there appear to be buses at least as far as Goobies Junction, but that's still 200 km from Fortune. In Saint Pierre the airport seems to be within walking distance, about 2 km from the ferry terminal (there exists a taxi service here as well).

There are also flights between St. Johns (or some other airports in Canada) and Saint Pierre, but if the no-fly rule strictly applies to all international flights, those might not work either (even though it would be silly from a geography point of view).

Note that Air Saint Pierre is a very small airline (according to Wikipedia they have three planes; two 8-seaters and one 46-seater; they must be leasing something larger for the FSP-CDG route) and I would not be surprised if their flights can be booked only through their own website and are not available on regular flight booking search engines.

8
  • 5
    OP mentioned that flying from Halifax is a possibility for them, flying from Halifax to St Pierre would make much more sense, and not pass through US airspace at all either (not even the FIR), this is provided that the rules doesn't strictly applies of course Feb 1, 2023 at 9:34
  • 4
    If flying from Halifax directly to Europe is an option, then the detour via Saint Pierre wouldn't be necessary.
    – gerrit
    Feb 1, 2023 at 9:44
  • 1
    Indeed, but OP's question is to know if any flight off from Toronto would be valid, which likely there aren't Feb 1, 2023 at 9:46
  • 2
    @Nelson Geological assessment of each flight? Geology and planes don't mix too well... Feb 2, 2023 at 12:25
  • 3
    @SebastianLenartowicz Geology matters when you want to build a runway :-)
    – gerrit
    Feb 2, 2023 at 13:51
15

To add to @JonathanReez's answer:

WestJet's WS18/19 from Calgary to London Heathrow (and the Air Canada equivalent AC850/851) also definitely never cross US Airspace due to its geographical location

FR24

Screenshot from FlightRadar24


Note that no westerly flight from Canada won't cross/approach US Airspace, because of Alaska mainly but also because of Guam and Hawaii.

Airlines are obligated to make plans for diversion, and on the Canada <-> Asia route, Alaska is the only diversion possibility, not to mention the very real overfly probability, which makes them required to share info with the US.

On the Canada-Oceania route, Hawaii is a main diversion airport, and for the Canada-Australia routes it may actually overfly Hawaiian airspace.

Due to that, they may even have issues boarding flights out of Tokyo and likely east China, and bound to Australia/New Zealand, due to the proximity/diversion option of Guam to the route.


As you can see in this FAA map, Alaska's airspace extends quite far south, which makes the less likely flights to overfly it only depart from Vancouver, and even then, they'll be blocked from boarding due to diversion.

enter image description here

4
  • 1
    On Canada ←→ Asia: YUL-TLV or YUL-DEL connect Canada to Asia but don't pass near Alaska.
    – gerrit
    Feb 2, 2023 at 13:49
  • Along the same lines, there appear to be year-round flights from Calgary to Amsterdam & Frankfurt, as well as Edmonton–Amsterdam. Both cities have seasonal service to other European destinations as well. Feb 2, 2023 at 14:11
  • @Nicolas Formichella This is very helpful, thank you. Feb 2, 2023 at 17:22
  • 3
    Note that Alaska, Hawaiʻi, and the Pacific islands don't count for Secure Flight purposes.
    – Vikki
    Feb 3, 2023 at 23:34
11

Short of charter flights, the only option that definitely doesn't cross US airspace is Air Canada flight AC868 between Halifax and London:

enter image description here

That being said it's still possible that Air Canada's software is set up lazily and they do the checks for every single international flight, so someone with personal experience would have to confirm that this flight won't be problematic for your client.

10
6

To be on the safe side, depart from Calgary or Edmonton. Both airports have international flights to Europe that are never routed over the US. Air Canada flies to Frankfurt and London, WestJet to London, Amsterdam (for a while yet) and will fly to Barcelona, KLM to Amsterdam, There might also be some seasonal or charter flights with Air Transat or others in the summer.

There might also be some flights ex-Quebec City to Paris which should not trigger warnings most of the time. The difficulty with flights originating in Ontario or Quebec is that weather sometimes forces the flights to cross over Maine: it’s a bit of a crap shoot.

2

As a follow on to the suggestion from Halifax, in the summer it seems that Condor will also be flying between there and Frankfurt, Germany.

https://www.condor.com/us/book-plan/flight/timetable/timetable-result.jsp?dd=20230703&rd=20230710&o=YHZ&d=FRA&action=search&flightMode=RT

The Air Canada flight to Madrid seems to be a former passenger plane that was converted to be a freighter, and so it is still listed sometimes as a passenger flight. If you look further out on the time table for the schedule, the plane changes to be a 767-F or a plane that left the factory to carry cargo.

Finally, Looking at FI 602's take-offs from YYZ over the past week, a few go straight out over the lake depending on how the wind is blowing, and likely will fall within the 12-NM limit listed above.

There is a specific call out as mentioned for a "Domestic" Canada flight that crosses US territory, flying over Maine to Halifax is likely not an issue.

You must log in to answer this question.

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