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International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Tue Mar 17, 2020 7:04 pm
by USAirALB
A bit of a weird question, but how do International Terminals/Departures work in Canada?

Here in the US, technically speaking any gate in a terminal can service an international departure as we don't have formal exit control. Those making connections onto from a domestic flight simply walk to their connecting gate without passing through any inspection. This is one of the reasons (I assume, amongst many) that the US does not have a sterile International to International connections transit process, as because all departure gates in the US are usually connected to the landside terminal area, one can simply leave the departures area and "enter" the USA. Forcing everyone to clear CBP upon an international arrival, even if they are connecting to an international flight, mitigates this issue.

How does this process work in Canada? I know they too lack formal exit control, and non-Canadian/American citizens are required to have a valid ETA/transit visa to transit through a Canadian airport. I always thought that they had a sterile transit area, but on the YYZ flight connections section of the Air Canada website, AC describes a "cursory Canada Customs check" for those making an international to international transfer. The YVR flight connections section of the AC website actually states that international to international transfers must follow the signs to passport control and clear CBSA procedures (albeit using a special lane). Are Canadian international gates strictly designed to cater to international flights, and lack an "Exit" to the landside terminal area?

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Tue Mar 17, 2020 7:16 pm
by smokeybandit
I thought American international departures required a passport check at the gate.

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Tue Mar 17, 2020 8:10 pm
by ScottB
smokeybandit wrote:
I thought American international departures required a passport check at the gate.


That's mostly about making sure passengers have the documents they'll need to enter the country at their destination, rather than being refused and flown back to their origin at the airline's expense. They'll look for your visa if you're going to a country which requires one.

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Tue Mar 17, 2020 8:47 pm
by AC853
Some airports have international terminals as does Calgary and Vancouver and airports in Eastern Canada. Edmonton only as a US pre-clearance customs and immigration separated from other departures. Overseas flight depart from the same terminal as domestic flights. Passports are checked for validity and to ensure you have appropriate visas for the destination country.

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Tue Mar 17, 2020 8:52 pm
by Aeroflot001
ScottB wrote:
smokeybandit wrote:
I thought American international departures required a passport check at the gate.


That's mostly about making sure passengers have the documents they'll need to enter the country at their destination, rather than being refused and flown back to their origin at the airline's expense. They'll look for your visa if you're going to a country which requires one.


You're right about that part, passports in hand for Intl flights out of MIA on AA most of the time, especially for visa heavy destinations like Brazil used to be before lifting the requirement for U.S. citizens.
Hit a slight speed-bump when I was flagged as a US citizen flying to GRU without a valid visa, the agent did not take my word that Argentineans don't need a Brazilian visa so some extra digging was required.

Anyhow I'm curious to hear more about the topic at hand here for sure.

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Tue Mar 17, 2020 9:26 pm
by yzfElite
It works pretty much the same in Canada as the US in terms of no exit requirements. Some airports have international departure areas where internationally connecting passengers can be processed into without having to be fully granted entry to Canada.

US departures at most major Canadian airports is a fair bit different because US Customs officers actually do the screening in Canada and a section of the airport is considered to be similar to being a US domestic flight (eg YYZ to DCA has no passport check on arrival unless extraordinary checks are done).

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Wed Mar 18, 2020 12:10 am
by longhauler
Most international departures at YYZ, YUL, YVR, YYC leave from a dedicated part of the airport.

If originating in YYZ (for example) one would check in, pass through security then head down to the gate area. This area is secure as duty free shopping can be done. If connecting in YYZ from a domestic flight, then following the signs one ends up in the international section, all staying in the secure part of the airport. If connecting from the US or International, then Canadian Customs are bypassed and a dedicated passport check is done, then down to the gates you go. Again, staying in the sterile part of the airport. Here’s the kicker though ..... if your flight cancelled, you actually have to clear Canadian Customs even though you haven’t left the country!

This allows for a seamless and very quick transit through YYZ (for example).

However other airports in Canada allow the international departure from anywhere in the airport. The only difference is that duty free can not be purchased, or if the facility exists, it must be delivered to the gate and retrieved when boarding.

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Wed Mar 18, 2020 1:13 am
by Dominion301
A lot of Canadian airports have some “swing” gates, meaning an international arrival can be turned to a domestic or even transborder flight at the same gate.

In theory all domestic gates in Canada can be used for non-transborder international departures, but not all domestic departure gates can handle international arrivals. In reality though that doesn’t happen. Like longhauler said, proximity to the duty free store is a big influence for gate choice as is a gate’s capacity (e.g. a code B gate probably can’t handle any aircraft capable of reaching a non-US international destination...except for the Atlantic Canada airports Air St. Pierre flies their ATR to.

At smaller Canadian airports without preclearance like YQB, all gates can be used for any type of departure. But again transborder or international arrivals evidently need to be at a gate with customs access, including remote stands.

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Wed Mar 18, 2020 1:28 am
by Ziyulu
Does anyone know if I am flying from China to Canada to US, where would I go through US immigration? At Canada or the US?

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Wed Mar 18, 2020 1:42 am
by longhauler
Ziyulu wrote:
Does anyone know if I am flying from China to Canada to US, where would I go through US immigration? At Canada or the US?

If it is an AC to AC connection, you bypass Canadian Customs and go directly to US Preclearance for your US flight. Bags do not have to be physically transferred.

If not AC to AC, then you clear Canadian Customs/Immigration on arrival, then go to US preclearance for your US departure. Bags must be physically transferred.

In either case, US Immigration is performed in Canada for your pre-cleared flight.

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Wed Mar 18, 2020 2:09 am
by acavpics
longhauler wrote:
Ziyulu wrote:
Does anyone know if I am flying from China to Canada to US, where would I go through US immigration? At Canada or the US?

If it is an AC to AC connection, you bypass Canadian Customs and go directly to US Preclearance for your US flight. Bags do not have to be physically transferred.

If not AC to AC, then you clear Canadian Customs/Immigration on arrival, then go to US preclearance for your US departure. Bags must be physically transferred.

In either case, US Immigration is performed in Canada for your pre-cleared flight.


When you say "Ac to AC," does that include a connecting UA flight codesharing with AC? Just wondering.

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Wed Mar 18, 2020 2:14 am
by NYCAAer
I was flying from LGA to YUL a couple years on Air Canada. I was going to my aunt’s funeral and didn’t cut it short, but I needed to get there ASAP just the same. My flight to YUL canceled and I asked the agents if they could rebook me LGA-YYZ-YUL, and they did. I was wondering if it would be more of a hassle to connect in YYZ for a domestic flight, and the process was very easy. And I had the extra bonus of flying in business class on a 763 on the Rapidair shuttle, instead of the usual Embraers and A320s that I usually fly on LGA-YUL.

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Wed Mar 18, 2020 2:16 am
by YYCFlier
Large Canadian airports have distinct domestic, transborder (pre-cleared by US CBP), and international areas. The international area is always separate from domestic in these airports to allow for seamless sterile connections through Canada, something lacking in the US making transit more challenging.

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Wed Mar 18, 2020 4:07 am
by longhauler
acavpics wrote:

When you say "Ac to AC," does that include a connecting UA flight codesharing with AC? Just wondering.

As long as it were at the same terminal, it would include AC’s codeshare and alliance partners. In other words, often it is more the constraints of the facilities than the airline. While “AC to AC” is a safe bet, bring another airline into the mix and it’s best to check beforehand.

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Wed Mar 18, 2020 8:19 pm
by USAirALB
longhauler wrote:
if your flight cancelled, you actually have to clear Canadian Customs even though you haven’t left the country!
.

This is the answer I was looking for, thanks!

So in essence international departure areas at YYZ are "international zones".

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Thu Mar 19, 2020 12:54 am
by Ziyulu
Does Canada do exit passport checks?

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Thu Mar 19, 2020 2:00 am
by Dominion301
Ziyulu wrote:
Does Canada do exit passport checks?


No we don’t.

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Thu Mar 19, 2020 2:53 am
by FlyingDove
Have a look at the AC inflight magazine for a sense of swing gates as well as the process going through YYZ and other big airports between domestic and international or US etc.

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Thu Mar 19, 2020 3:12 am
by Acey
YYC's new int'l terminal has a complicated maze of automatically configured hallways that allow four gates to be fully tri-sector; domestic, transborder, and international departures, all from separate holdrooms. Other gates can swing between international and transborder only, the result of which is lengthy walking distances for pax during heavy pushes of transborder or sun departures.

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Thu Mar 19, 2020 7:43 am
by directorguy
I flew recently YVR-YYC-LHR and this is what happened.
Note: Canadian airports generally have three distinct zones. Domestic for flights within Canada: transborder for flights going to the US (to access the transborder zone you need to go through US customs) and international for everything else.
I checked in and boarded my AC flight in the Domestic section of the terminal at YVR. On arrival in YYC we arrived in the domestic section and I had to make my way over to the international departures. I had to show my boarding pass and passport to gain access to the international zone. The signage was very clear that once I went through I could not go back. Canada does not have passport control on departure, like the US.
I am not entirely sure why Canada unlike the US or even the UK does not mix domestic and international passengers on departure. YYC does not get that much international traffic, just KLM to AMS, AC, BA and now WS to LON and I think LH or Condor to FRA. Must cost a lot to build and maintain that facility for a handful of flights. Another poster pointed out that some gates can actually be used for domestic or transborder It's actually a very pleasant airport to use. I know some people had criticized the new design as it can be a long walk from domestic to international, but they had these cute trolley cars to move people around. Maybe with large volumes of people it would be a problem but for the odd domestic to intl pax was hassle-free.

Re: International Departures at Canadian airports

Posted: Thu Mar 19, 2020 10:07 pm
by dr1980
FlyingDove wrote:
Have a look at the AC inflight magazine for a sense of swing gates as well as the process going through YYZ and other big airports between domestic and international or US etc.


I was going to suggest the same, the flow chart in their magazine is very easy to follow.