Security Screening

Every passenger at Canada’s airports must pass through security screening, which includes the following steps that you need to follow:

  1. Have your boarding pass ready to present for verification.  You may need to show photo identification. For questions related to identification required for boarding, contact your airline.
  1. Place personal items in bins. Check our What Do I Put in the Bins? page for tips.
  1. Send your bin(s) as well as your carry-on bag through the X-ray machine. See How to Pack your Carry-on to make this process easier.
  1. Pass through the walk-through metal detector.

Once this process is complete, you may retrieve your carry-on baggage at the X-ray machine. You can speed up the screening process by being aware of carry-on baggage restrictions and what to wear to ensure you don’t set off the alarm at the walk-through metal detector.

Additional screening or separate screening of particular items

At times, additional screening or separate screening of particular items is required in addition to the regular process.

ALERTEnhanced screening measures of electronic devices. Passengers will continue to be randomly selected for additional screening, which will now include screening of their electronic devices. If selected, you will be asked to remove any covers or protective cases from your electronic devices before inspection, and may be asked to show that they can be powered up. Before travel, you should:
  • Make sure your cases can be easily removed, or are removed in advance, and
  • Ensure that any devices you are travelling with are charged and can power up.
Note: Electronic devices that cannot be taken out of their cases or powered on when requested during enhanced screening will not be permitted beyond the screening checkpoint.

Additional Screening

If you trigger an alarm at the walk-through metal detector or, if your bag triggers an alarm at the X-ray machine, or if you are or your bag is chosen at random, you may be asked to undergo additional screening. This may involve:

Random additional screening

Random additional screening searches are legislated requirements at all major airports in Canada. 
Random selection helps us ensure the highest standards of security. It builds unpredictability into the screening process, and ensures an impartial selection process. It is a globally respected practice, and is consistent with our international obligations to enhance and protect security while causing the minimum interference with or delay to air travel.

Explosive Trace Detection (Swabbing)

CATSA uses explosive trace detection (ETD) as a security measure. Screening officers may swab your carry-on baggage, clothing, shoes or laptop. When a trace of person is required, the screening officer will swab your hands, waist area and foot (or footwear) and then use ETD technology to test for explosives.

Certain items and passengers must undergo ETD testing, including passengers who:

  • Are randomly selected
  • Are wearing medical casts or large bandages / dressings
  • Have prosthetic or orthotic devices on their person
  • Have implanted medical devices
  • Are travelling with live animals (including service animals)

If an ETD swab is needed, you can ask to be screened in a private search room.

Religious and Cultural Items and Clothing

  • Screening officers are trained to use common sense and courtesy when screening people carrying or wearing objects of religious or cultural significance.
  • You can undergo security screening while wearing a head covering for religious reasons. For more detail, please see Screening of Head Coverings.
  • When you enter the screening checkpoint, let the screening officer know you are carrying an item of religious or cultural significance (e.g. staff, mask, sacred bundle or medicine bundle). You may ask the screening officer to screen the item separately. The screening officer will provide you with screening options for the item based on the nature of the item and your preference.
  • If flying within Canada or to an international (non-U.S.) destination, ceremonials knives and swords (e.g. a kirpan) with a blade 6 cm or less in length are permitted through the pre-board screening checkpoint. Blades longer than 6 cm should be packed in your checked baggage. Blades of any type or length are not permitted on flights to the U.S. Transport Canada offers a detailed list of prohibited items for passengers on all flights.

Head Coverings

There are different screening procedures for head coverings depending on your flight’s destination.

Domestic and international flights:

  • You will be asked to remove your head covering and place it in a bin for X-ray screening. If you do not remove your head covering, you will need to remove it after the walk-through metal detector for a physical search if it is not worn for religious or medical reasons.
  • Any head covering worn through the walk-through metal detector that causes an alarm to sound will require additional screening. If a physical search is required, it may be conducted in a private search room at your request.

Flights to U.S.:

  • You will be asked to remove your head covering and place it in a bin for X-ray screening. If you do not remove your head covering and alarm at the walk-through metal detector, additional screening will be required. If a physical search is required, it may be conducted in a private search room at your request.
  • If there is no alarm at the walk-through metal detector, you will be asked to pat down your own head covering and present your hands to the screening officer for explosive trace detection.
  • If you remove your head covering at any point in the screening process, trace of the head covering is no longer required.
  • If you are going through a Trusted Traveller screening line (where available), you are allowed to keep your head covering on and it will not be subject to explosive trace detection.
Be sure to review our tips for a stress-free screening!


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