Transportation minister says no quick fix for airport screening delays

The federal transportation minister says staffing shortages at airport security screening checkpoints across the country will not be fixed overnight.

“Are we going to see the elimination of lineups immediately? I will be honest with you, I don’t think so,” Omar Alghabra said Monday in Ottawa. “It’s not going to be a magic wand or a silver bullet.”

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, also known as CATSA, said it’s contractors are having trouble recruiting and retaining staff.

“CATSA has been actively supporting its screening contractors – including AUS in the Pacific region – as they take additional measures to ensure effective recruitment and candidate development,” the federal Crown corporation said in a statement.

Compounding the problem at some airports, CATSA says peak times for domestic and international travel often overlap.

“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,” it said in its statement.

“It’s really stressful. We’ve already been doing this for about an hour and a half just to get to this point,” said Hannah Weir, who arrived at Vancouver International Airport three hours ahead of her flight to Edmonton.

At various times on Monday, lineups fro security checkpoints at YVR stretched through the domestic departures terminal.

The airport said its staff is doing what it can to keep lines flowing in a timely manner.

“Because this is a security function, there is only so much that the airport and our airline partners can do but you have seen staff assisting and moving people up in the line if it’s getting very close to the departure time for that flight,” said Mike McNaney, YVR’s vice-president of External Affairs.

According to CATSA, one other reason for the delays is that people are often travelling with more carry-on luggage which can create screening delays as passengers due what they can to avoid checked baggage fees now being charged by most airlines.

The agency says it has several new recruits going through training and it expects some of them to begin work on the front lines at YVR within a few weeks, which should ease some of the pressure.

In the meantime, YVR is urging travellers to arrive at least two hours early for domestic flights and three hours before international departures.