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'Barely made it': Locals express outrage after long waits at Vancouver airport

YVR says "it is unclear when this situation will improve."
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Multiple Metro Vancouver, B.C. residents say they waited in long lines at YVR due to staff shortages. There have been many flight delays and cancellations.

Travellers are expressing frustration and outrage after lengthy waits at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) resulted in delayed or missed flights.

YVR is urging travellers to arrive early at the airport, advising them to allow two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international.

But numerous travellers say they recently missed flights or came close to missing them despite arriving hours in advance of their departure time. Several of them say one of the security areas was closed, creating longer wait times. 

Vancouver-based CFOX-FM radio host Casey-Joo Loos shared an experience travelling to the United States via YVR in late April where she barely made her flight after arriving three hours before her scheduled departure.

"Do we need four hours in advance for a [U.S.] flight?" she asked. "Wish I knew. [I] just ran to my gate and barely made it and there are many left behind [families]."

The radio personality added that airport staff told her "this has been a problem for weeks" and advised her to fill out a customer feedback form.

Another local tweeted that he purchased a Premium Class ticket to Paris with WestJet but was bumped to an Economy Class ticket after he missed his flight "due to a very long security line at the airport." His next flight was eight hours later and he said he hasn't been provided compensation.

A Metro Vancouverite who holds a Nexus card recently travelled through the Vancouver airport on route to San Francisco and noted the "security line was deep", particularly for non-Nexus holders.

"It was the longest I waited but it was probably 30-40 [minutes] to get through security and US customs so not bad. However, the plane was 45 [minutes] delayed waiting for non-Nexus," he wrote on Twitter. 

Some travellers continue to move through the airport with relative ease, however. Dana Bidnall wrote in a Twitter post that she flew out of YVR on April 16 and joked that the only long wait she experienced was at the Starbucks "post-security." She wondered if having an early morning flight (8 a.m.) and holding a Nexus card helped. 

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority and long waits at YVR

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), which is the federal crown corporation responsible for all passenger security screening, is experiencing ongoing staffing shortages.

CATSA spokesperson Suzanne Perseo told Vancouver Is Awesome that the corporation has been actively supporting its contractors to recruit and develop new staff. 

"Screening resources are scheduled according to airline traffic. Prior to the pandemic, resources could be cross-utilized more efficiently between the Transborder and Domestic and International checkpoints due to staggered passenger peaks," she wrote in an email.

"As air travel recovers we are observing simultaneous peaks, which can result in passengers flooding more than one security checkpoint at a time, making the redistribution of resources to address these passenger volumes more challenging. At times, this can contribute to longer passenger wait times at all airports."

Increasingly, passengers are travelling with more carry-on bags "resulting in additional time required to process these bags at Pre-Board Screening," added Perseo. 

YVR told V.I.A. that CATSA's staff shortages are contributing to the long waits and it is unclear when the situation will improve.

Travellers have shared frustration with delays and cancellations at the airport for months, however. In late February, for example, Simon Hudson noted that he had his worst experience in three "decades of international travel" despite encountering "lovely staff." For him, the issue was the COVID-19 protocol, which he described as "[utterly] awful"

YVR has provided travellers with five tips to prepare for their next flight.  

  • Arrive early. YVR strongly encourages all travellers flying from YVR to arrive at the airport early—at least two hours ahead of domestic flights and at least three hours for U.S. and international.
  • Follow latest health measures. Masks continue to be required in the terminal and onboard your flight.
  • Take note of in-terminal signs. Passengers may be directed through specific screening checkpoints depending on volume. Please follow in-terminal signs. YVR’s Guest Experience team and Green Coat volunteers are stationed at Information Counters and throughout the terminal, and are ready to answer any questions you may have.
  • Be prepared for passenger screening. Recognize that CATSA staff are doing their best under very busy and challenging circumstances. For those with carry-on luggage, ensure liquids, gels and aerosols are in containers that are under 100 millilitres and are packaged into one transparent, closed and resealable plastic bag with a capacity of no more than one litre. Check the full list of CATSA carry-on requirements.
  • Know before you go. Have your travel documents, including your passport and proof of vaccination, ready before you check in for your flight. Be sure to also understand the entry requirements of your destination.

Find out everything B.C. residents need to know about flight cancellations, refunds, and baggage claims.