Federal government announces new program to streamline airport security

May 24, 2023

New program meant to speed up processing at six major airports

With the aim of avoiding the travel chaos that gripped the country last summer, the federal government is rolling out a new Verified Traveller Program it says will streamline the airport security check-in process. Beginning next month, eligible airline passengers will be able to keep their laptops, electronics and liquids in their carry-on bags and will be permitted to clear airport security without having to remove their shoes, belts and jackets. The changes to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) security screening practices will affect six international airports across the country. They were announced by Transport Minister Omar Alghabra on Tuesday.

“As membership grows over time, the new Verified Traveller Program will help improve the screening experience for more and more passengers while supporting the highest standards of safety and security,” Alghabra said at an event at Toronto Pearson International Airport.

The new Verified Traveller Program will be up and running by June 21, according to a government statement on the new system, and will replace the current Trusted Traveller Program. NEXUS and Global Entry members will qualify for the streamlined security stream, as will active members of the Canadian Armed Forces and U.S. military members, including reservists with valid identification.

Canadian aircrew, airport staff and international air crew in uniform with valid ID will also be able to fast-track through airport security checkpoints, as will RCMP and police from other forces.

The Verified Traveller program will also allow children 17 and under and Canadians 75 and older to pass through streamlined security with eligible passengers if they are on the same reservation.

A tough year for travellers

The new fast-track screening service will be available at selected airports across the country, including Toronto-Pearson International Airport, Vancouver International Airport, Edmonton International Airport, Calgary International Airport, Winnipeg International Airport and Montreal-Trudeau International Airport.

“I know that the last year has been really tough on travellers,” Alghabra said. “I know a lot of people have now lost confidence… are being skeptical about the abilities of the institutions to service them. All of us — governments, private sector, airlines, airports — are working hard to ensure that all travellers have the best experience they can.”

Last summer, Canada’s airports struggled to cope with overflowing baggage halls, stranded passengers, flight delays and cancellations as travellers returned to airports post-pandemic. And with almost all COVID-19-related travel restrictions now lifted, it’s expected that the pent-up desire to get away will result in even more Canadians travelling by air over the coming months. Last summer at Pearson, Canada’s largest airport, on-time performance was at just 35 per cent, according to the Greater Toronto Airports Authority.

To avoid a repeat of that experience, Pearson has hired 10,000 new employees — an increase of almost 22 per cent — for a total of 50,000 workers, about on par with 2019 levels. The new hires include 130 new staff announced just last week to help in critical areas at Pearson such as busing, baggage handling and terminal operations. The Canadian Airports Council issued a statement saying it supports the new program and expects it will help to reduce processing times.

“Canada’s airports have been requesting risk-based screening for years. We are encouraged by this progress announced today,” the statement said.

(Source: CBC News, Peter Zimonjic )

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