In a previous post, I rambled on about the new post-Christmas security “regulations” facing Canadians flying to the US. Since then, a comment posted in a discussion in The Globe and Mail got me thinking.

In the discussion there is a thread:

An earlier comment asked: What is absolutely ridiculous about this is the significant inconsistency that while Transport Canada has somehow decided that it now needs to restrict carry-on items to only 13 specific items, the TSA in the US has not changed any of its policies regarding carry-on items for US air travel (which is limited more to a reasonable list of what CAN’T be carried on). Likewise, the UK and other countries have found it reasonable not to further restrict what can be carried on board for flights destined to the US.

Question: I can’t understand why Canada would unilaterally make travel to the US much more frustrating and time consuming than any other country, including the US.

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Steve Lott replies: Good question. The challenge for CATSA is dealing with large amount of passengers traveling from the Canada to the US. Other countries only have a fraction of the amount of people going to the US so they were able to comply with TSA rules within the limitations of their human resources. CATSA has to deal with more people and found it difficult to do more screening with a limited staff.

I researched all morning, so much that my body was starting to seize up. I wanted to know the percentage of flights to the U.S. and the estimated number of passengers. So I counted the number of departures, the number to the US and estimated the number of passengers per flight for today.

  • Ottawa had 97 departures, of which 28 (or 29%) were to the US. Estimating that there is an average of 125 passengers per flight, a total of 3,500 passengers would typically go to the US from Ottawa.
  • Vancouver had 219 departures, of which 58 (26%) were to the US. Estimating that there is an average of 150 passengers per flight, a total of 8,700 passengers would typically go to the US from YVR.
  • Montreal had 173 departures, of which 66 (38%) were to the US. Estimating that there’s an average of 150 passengers per flight, 9900 passengers would typically go to the US from Montreal.
  • Calgary had 209 departures, of which 42 (20%) were to the US. Estimating an average of 125 passengers per flight, 5,250 passengers would typically travel to the US from Calgary.
  • Toronto (Pearson) had 482 departures, of which 212 (44%) were to the US. Estimating that there is an average of 125 passengers per flight, a total of 26,500 passengers would typically go to the US from Toronto.

So clearly, if there’s a problem, it seems to be in Toronto, specifically Pearson.

So then I wanted to compare with other countries.

  • LHR (Heathrow) has an estimated 1,268 departures daily, of which 85 go to the US. Because these flights are long haul, the estimated number of passengers per flight would be about 300, resulting in 25,500 passengers. This is just under the number from Toronto, yet no restrictions apply.
  • Amsterdam had 700 departures, 40 of which were to the US, resulting in approximately 12,000 passengers. Again, no restrictions on carry on luggage.
  • Frankfurt am main has an estimated 600 departures per day, of which 115 go to the US, resulting in 34,500 passengers. Again, no restrictions on carry on luggage.

After wasting half my morning, it dawned on me: I can’t blame CATSA, or Transport Canada, or even Toronto (as much as I’d like to do that). Because, if you are traveling to the US from Canada, you pre-clear customs in Canada, then go through American-run security before boarding the plane. So it seems logical to conclude that the TSA or US Border and  Customs are responsible for screening passengers who are technical on “American” soil.

I guess they really don’t like us Canadians.

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