General aviation

Canadians advised to arrive early if flying to the United States

A man enters the United States using an automated customs machine. Canadian airports and airlines are warning of longer than usual waits to clear US customs.

If you’re travelling to the United States these days from Canada, you’re being asked to get to the airport earlier than usual.

Air Canada warned passengers Saturday to arrive at the airport three hours before a flight “due processing times of customers by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.” That’s one hour earlier than the company normally recommends.

On Monday, Toronto’s Pearson International joined in, helpfully suggesting passengers use the extra time to “grab a bite to eat” before their flights.

Westjet gave more specific advice on its social media account Monday, advising passengers at three Canadian hubs that passenger volumes would mean processing times would be longer than usual.

The concerns are being raised as a partial government shutdown in the United States enters its third week, affecting hundreds of thousands of government employees, including border guards and passenger screeners from the Transportation Safety Administration.

CNN first reported on Friday that flights in the United States were being delayed by the ongoing partial government shutdown, as more TSA agents called in sick than usual. Like border guards, passenger screeners are required to work during the shutdown, but are not being paid.

The so-called “sick out” is being interpreted as a way of protesting the working conditions.

While TSA agents do not work in Canada, there is clearly a concern that customs officers – who staff U.S. pre-clearance facilities at major Canadian airports – could also be affected.

The union representing border guards – the National Treasury Employees Union – is part of a coalition of unions demanding an end to the shutdown, filing a lawsuit Monday alleging the U.S. government is violating labour laws.

“It is unconscionable that many employees are having to work – and in some cases overtime – with no pay whatsoever,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon in a statement.

For its part, the TSA said in a statement they are closely monitoring the situation, but that the vast majority of passengers were screened Sunday in less that 30 minutes, well within the TSA’s standard.

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Categories: General aviation