CATSA screening officers use a physical search (sometimes referred to as a "pat-down") for two main reasons:
- If you are randomly chosen for additional screening, you will need to undergo either a physical search or a full body scan (where available).
- If you trigger the alarm on the walk-through metal detector, you will have to undergo further screening to determine what metal object set off the alarm.
A physical search (pat-down) may involve the following:
- a visual search by the screening officer to look for any unusual objects.
- a physical search by the screening officer using touch to check for items that could be hidden under a person’s clothes.
You always have the right to refuse search; however, you will not be permitted to pass beyond the pre-board screening checkpoint.
What happens during a physical search (pat-down)?
A physical search is always conducted in the most professional and respectful manner possible. A physical search:
- Is always done by a screening officer of the same gender as the passenger. In exceptional situations, when a screening officer of the same gender is not available, alternative screening options will be offered.
- Is usually performed over clothing, though the screening officer may need to move, shift or slightly lift clothing during the search.
- Is safe and hygienic; screening officers must wear gloves during the search, and you can ask the officer to change gloves before your search.
- May be performed in a private search room. If you choose this option, one screening officer of the same gender as you will carry out the search. A witness (of the same sex as the person being searched, if possible) will also be present. Witnesses will be a screening officer or another independent third-party witness (e.g. airline representative, airport security personnel, police officer). Bring all of your personal belongings with you so they don’t get lost or stolen.
What if I have a medical condition?
Before the process begins, let the screening officer know that you have a medical condition and your level of ability. Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance. If you have a disability, condition or implant (like a pacemaker or insulin pump) that you would like to remain private, please ask the screening officer to be discreet.
All passengers need to be searched regardless of age. Physical searches may only be conducted by screening officers of the same gender as the person who is being searched.
- Infants: The gender of the parent or guardian is the determining factor, not the gender of the child.
- Younger than 12 years of age: A witness of the same gender is needed. Witnesses will be a screening officer or another independent third-party witness (e.g. airline representative, airport security personnel, police officer). A parent, guardian or airline representative must also observe the search.
- 12 to 15 years of age: A guardian, family member or escort may observe a private physical search. Such passenger-requested observers do not replace the requirement for screening personnel or an independent third-party witness.