Canadian airline passengers are barred from bringing any carry-on luggage aboard U.S.-bound flights, with some key exceptions, under new security rules announced Monday.
Transport Canada decreed the new airport security measures — which take effect immediately — in a statement Monday evening. They include a prohibition on bringing baggage aboard the cabin of any flight bound for the United States, with certain exceptions:
Medication or medical devices, including crutches, canes, walkers and containers carrying life-sustaining items.
Items for care of infants.
Diplomatic or consular bags.
Other special needs items.
Transport Canada also said that RCMP and local police officers have been authorized to help airport security staff in screening baggage and travellers.
The federal department said the new rules aim "to alleviate the immediate pressures at the security checkpoint." Stepped-up security measures have delayed travellers in the wake of an in-flight bombing attempt on Christmas Day on a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit.
That first round of new travel regulations for U.S.-bound passengers included a requirement for all carry-on bags to be hand-searched and for all travellers to be subject to a secondary pat-down screening. Massive lines at airport security desks ensued, and many flights destined for the United States were delayed several hours at major Canadian airports.
All the new security measures are temporary and will last at least "several days," Transport Canada said.
Lines already easing
The new baggage rules come as the long lineups at some Canadian airports for travellers seeking to fly into the U.S. appeared to ease on Monday.
Early Monday morning, thousands of people slowly manoeuvred through lineups at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, with some waiting for hours because of new screening measures.
But Trish Krale, a spokeswoman for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, said the consolidation of some flights by using larger planes has helped ease the crunch.
At Montreal's Trudeau airport, lineups were long but moving. Many people had arrived at least three hours early for their flight, but after two hours, lineup pressures appeared to have abated.
Airline officials were still warning passengers to give themselves extra time when coming to the airport.
However, passengers departing from Vancouver International Airport faced major delays because of computer problems with the check-in system and the baggage restrictions.
The computer glitch was forcing airlines to check in passengers manually and by phone. It added to the delays already caused by new security guidelines introduced at the airport Monday morning, further restricting the kinds of bags passengers can take on flights.
As thousands of passengers waited in line, anxious to get home after the holidays, about half of the midday flights leaving the airport were delayed, and flight-information boards were reportedly not working.
Some U.S.-bound flights cancelled
Air Canada and Jazz said Sunday evening that because of protracted waits for customer security clearance at Canadian airports, the two carriers were being forced to cancel select short-haul flights to the U.S. beginning immediately.
Air Canada has also decided that once airborne, passengers will not be allowed to leave their seats for one hour before landing.
Transport Canada began its security crackdown, in conjunction with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, after a man tried to light an explosive device on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam as it was about to land in Detroit on Friday.
On Saturday, the U.S. Justice Department charged a 23-year-old Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, with several offences, including attempting to destroy an airplane with a destructive device.
No carry-on is ideal: official
Many flights from Prairie airports were delayed Monday as security remained tight.
Officials at Alberta's two main airports were recommending people destined for the U.S. not bring any carry-on luggage at all and check all baggage instead.
Jody Moseley of the Calgary Airport Authority said limiting carry-on luggage will help speed up the lines at security.
"What we are asking … is that people …carry nothing onto the aircraft."
Of the Calgary airport's 48 scheduled departures to the U.S. on Monday, 30 were, or are expected to be, delayed by more than 30 minutes as of mid-afternoon. Delays on those flights were averaging about an hour and a half.
Flights from airports in Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon and Winnipeg were slightly delayed as a result of the more stringent precautions but not as badly as other major Canadian cities.
Bill Humby, coach of the 20-member Alberta swim team, which was enroute to California on Monday, said from Calgary airport that a long delay could end up costing the team $1,800 for a prepaid night at their San Diego hotel, plus precious, costly training time.
"I'm hoping we can get there tomorrow for training," Humby said.
Lineups were slightly longer than normal at Winnipeg's James Richardson International Airport early Monday. Some flights were delayed up to an hour by increased security screening.
Daniel Madrid and his Winnipeg friends were headed to Mexico and they arrived at the airport earlier than usual.
"Nowadays … I'm not surprised," Madrid said. "They're going to add an extra hour here or there so you just … you know, you just adjust for it."
Operations at Regina and Saskatoon airports were mostly on time with just slight delays Monday.