Air travellers departing Vancouver International Airport (YVR) are being told to arrive early and be ready for long waits.
Airport administrators say the issue is related to security screening delays, brought on by a shortage of federal Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) officers.
“I’ve been aviation now for 20+ years … certainly the delays that we were experiencing last week, those have never been experienced before.,” Mike McNaney, chief external affairs officer at YVR, told Global News.
Passengers are being told to arrive at least two hours early for a domestic flight and three hours early for an international flight.
McNaney said the problem began to reveal itself in early April as air traffic numbers began to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.
But he said the airport authority is limited in what it can do, given it does not have control over security screening.
Airport staff are doing what they can to move people to the front of the line if their flight is leaving soon or to direct people to other security checkpoints if one lineup is moving particularly slowly.
“The obligation we now see for CATSA management is to provide a plan for how they will manage the staffing shortfall,” he said.
“The equipment is there, the lanes are there, but they are not all being operated.”
In a statement, CATSA said it hoped to have new screening officer recruits ready for YVR “within the next few weeks.”
The Crown corporation said there were several factors affecting security screening wait times, including more passengers opting to travel with carry on baggage, and changes to passenger flows.
“Prior to the pandemic, resources could be cross utilized more efficiently between the Transborder and Domestic and International checkpoints due to staggered passenger peaks,” the statement reads.
“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. ”
In the meantime, McNaney said people should be patient, particularly with security staff who aren’t responsible for the staffing situation.
He said people can also help speed things up by being ready for screening at checkpoints with metallic objects removed from their person and liquids and gels removed from their bags.