TORONTO — The RCMP says the federal government has asked for the Mounties’ help with passenger screening at Canada’s major airports until Wednesday but another request may be made to keep them there longer.
Sgt. Marc LaPorte says Transportation Minister John Baird may ask to keep officers on the job for a while longer to speed up security checks, which now include pat-downs.
Lineups for U.S. flights at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport are moving along, but at times have stretched down long corridors far from the check-in counters.
The cause — according to an Air Canada agent — is many passengers having to re-pack their luggage right at the check-in counters to comply with the new no carry-on rule.
Agents say even some people with large purses are being sent back by U.S. customs agents.
Many of those in line seem unaware of the no carry-on luggage rule announced by Transport Canada on Monday evening.
Only small purses, laptops and a small list of items including medical supplies are now being allowed for carry-on. All rolling bags must be checked.
That made Sandra Papaianni nervous.
The 34-year-old mother of three children, two of them in diapers, was trying to pare down to the bare essentials as she and her family approached the check-in line at the Air Canada counter at Pearson’s Terminal 1.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do. Between a little sweater, a blankie, bottles, snacks, Cheerios and diapers, we’re going to be a little tight.”
“(How will I) cope with a little bag? I’m not sure. Let’s just hope they don’t need to go to the bathroom too many times,” Papaianni said.
But she was philosophical about the possibility of having to re-pack at the check-in counter.
“I’m hoping not but if we do I guess we have no choice … It’s for our own safety, right?”
Pappianni and her husband were looking for locker space at the airport to store items until they can return.
Another man boarding the plane had been re-booked after his Sunday flight to La Guardia was cancelled after a five-hour wait, along with more than a hundred other flights.
Even to get there two days late, Desmond Gamble had to book a flight to another New York airport.
“When I rescheduled, the flights were fully booked on Monday, and they were fully booked on Tuesday, so I asked them for another airport, and White Plains was available, so I re-booked for White Plains,” explained Gamble, 42, who works in IT support.
Two agents say this morning brought huge lineups — much longer than normal — contrary to what an official with the airport authority told The Canadian Press earlier.
The new security restrictions were adopted after a man tried to blow up an airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day.
U.S.-bound passengers must pass three levels of security — regular pre-flight passenger screening, U.S. Customs, and additional screening that can include pat-downs.