Every passenger at Canada’s airports must pass through security screening, which includes the following steps that you need to follow:
- 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.
- Place personal items in bins. Check our What Do I Put in the Bins? page for tips.
- 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.
- 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.
ALERT – Enhanced 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.
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:
- A screening officer using a hand-wand device that detects metal objects.
- A partial or full physical search (pat-down) of your person
- A partial or full physical search of your carry-on bag
- A scan of the body using a full-body scanner.
- Swabbing using explosive trace detection (ETD).
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.
Sacred and Spiritual Items
- We do not recommend packing delicate or fragile items in your checked baggage.
- Screening officers are instructed to treat items with the utmost respect and care and to screen sacred and spiritual items without holding or touching them.
- Before the screening process begins, let the screening officer know you have a sacred or spiritual item in your possession and advise the officer if:
- your sacred or spiritual item cannot be physically touched;
- there is a specific protocol for handling your sacred or spiritual item;
- an item cannot go through X-ray screening;
- an item cannot be screened by a screening officer of a particular gender;
- you must keep wearing the sacred or spiritual item during screening.
- The screening officer will provide you with screening options for the item based on the nature of the item and your preference.
- You can always request that your item be screened in a private search area if you feel more comfortable.
- If flying within Canada or to an international (non-U.S.) destination, ceremonial 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.
Depending on your flight's destination, there are different screening procedures for head coverings.
Domestic and international flights:
- You will be asked to remove a non-religious head covering and place it in a bin for X-ray screening.
- If wearing a religious head covering, you may keep it on however any head covering that causes an alarm will require additional screening. If the alarm cannot be properly resolved, you may be required to remove your head covering in order for a physical search to be conducted. If a physical search is required, it can be conducted in a private search room at your request.
Flights to the United States:
- You will not be asked to remove your head covering however additional screening of the head covering is required. If the alarm cannot be properly resolved, you may be required to remove your head covering in order for a physical search to be conducted.
- If a physical search is required, it may be conducted in a private search room at your request.
Be sure to review our tips for a stress-free screening!