Ottawa announces new trusted-traveller program to speed up airport lines

Some travellers will be able to keep their belts and shoes on while passing through security lines at Canadian airports

Travellers at Vancouver International Airport wait in long lines during last year's holiday travel chaos. The federal government is announcing a revamp of its trusted-traveller program to help clear clogged airports as the summer travel season kicks off. | Chung Chow, BIV

The federal government has rolled out a revamp of its trusted-traveller program to clear clogged airports as the summer travel season kicks off.

A tweaked "verified-traveller program" will launch dedicated security screening lines at six of the country's biggest airports between June 7 and June 21, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Tuesday.

"As membership grows over time, the new verified-traveler program will help improve the screening experience for more and more passengers while supporting the highest standards of safety and security," Alghabra said during a news conference at Toronto's Pearson airport.

Eligible passengers include Nexus members, military personnel, aviation workers and RCMP officers, who will be able to pass through security more quickly — and keep their shoes and belt on throughout.

Program changes include allowing trusted travellers to keep laptops and liquids stowed in their luggage instead of placing them separately onto the X-ray conveyor belt. Children under 18 and adults 75 or older can also now accompany program members through the expedited queues.

Those eligible — including the roughly 1.7 million Nexus members — can access the lines without applying beforehand.

The announcement comes after months of travel chaos last summer, when a surge in post-pandemic demand gummed up terminals and overwhelmed airlines.

In March, the Liberal budget laid out $1.8 billion over five years for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) to improve passenger screening and strengthen security measures at airports.

With traveller complaints to the regulator now topping 47,000, the government also tabled an overhaul to its passenger rights charter last month that ratchets up penalties on airlines and targets compensation loopholes around luggage and flight disruption.

"The next few months are going to be very busy as the summer season is about to begin. And I'm confident, with the preparation that has been taking place by airports, airlines, CATSA and other organizations, that we are ready for the summer season," Alghabra said.

The airports where trusted travellers can enjoy the fruits of that status are: Toronto's Pearson, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and Edmonton. Security at several other airports will provide the select passengers with front-of-the-line service, Alghabra said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 23, 2023.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press