To transfer or not to transfer?

I was talking to a friend the other day and we were exchanging horror stories of various airports we had to transfer through when travelling. Over time I have developed a list of favourites and a list of no-gos that I will avoid if possible and I wanted to pass it on to hopefully help others avoid some of the less fun aspects of airline travel. Here are some tips for travellers from Canada when there is no choice but to get on a non-direct flight to some fabulous place abroad.

1. Avoid Toronto. Last time I flew through Toronto on my way to Europe I had to walk about 2 miles and show my boarding pass/passport to about 10 different people. I wish I was exaggerating, two of the people could even see each other they were so close but when I reached the second airport employee they made me show my passport and boarding pass yet again. It took ages and was quite annoying.

2. Choose Montreal. I have flown home through Montreal a couple of times and it was easy and quick. There is a special line at passport control for people transferring flights and my next gate was not too far away. Plus I only had to show my passport/boarding pass one time past customs, that was a win for me after experiencing Toronto.

3. If you are going to South America, consider transferring through Panama instead of somewhere in the U.S. That way you do not have to go through U.S. customs, which is required when transferring through the U.S. even though you are just passing through. Also, Panama was an easy transfer, lots to do at the airport, and you stay inside the secured area so no need to go back through the security check line again.

4. Avoid Las Vegas. I was forced through Vegas once on a transfer (if only I could have stayed for a few days it would have been better) and it was a nightmare. I had to go through customs, re-check my bag, get a new boarding pass (the Air Canada readers couldn’t read the boarding pass I received in Ecuador), then go stand in a massive security line to then rush to the gate. Not fun.

5. Avoid Frankfurt. To get a direct flight to Europe there are a few main choices from Western Canada, London, Amsterdam or Frankfurt. Both London and Amsterdam are much better options. Every time I have flown through Frankfurt it takes approximately an hour to get through the customs check, another hour to two hours to get back through security and by then you are running for your gate which is inevitably far away. If you have to use Frankfurt, make sure you have at least 3 hours between flights, you will need it.

6. Use Amsterdam for a trip to Europe. Amsterdam is an easy airport to transfer through and offers flights to any other European destination.


7. Use Minneapolis. If you do need to transfer through the U.S. use Minneapolis. It was quick, easy and there is even a Canadian/American line for customs which is much faster. The customs line for Canadians/Americans is automated, you are in and out quickly, your luggage is already there by the time you walk through and there is a separate security line for transferring passengers only that is right outside the gate beside where you drop your luggage. Perfect.

8. Avoid Los Angeles. On my way to Asia I transferred through L.A., it was busy and the transfer process was awful. As I was coming from Canada I flew into the domestic terminal and then had to transfer through the international terminal and it was ridiculously busy. People everywhere and it took forever. Better to transfer in Vancouver or another country overseas.

9. Use Phoenix. Phoenix is easy, my gates have always been close together and customs was fairly smooth, not as good as Minneapolis but nothing is.

10. Use Vancouver. It is a nice airport, lots to do, and is a great gateway to Asia as there are many direct flights from there.

I’m always interested in new transfer options if anyone has recommendations, although my preference is always to try and go direct. If only it were always possible… At least hopefully there is a good airport to land in at the end!


3 thoughts on “To transfer or not to transfer?

  1. For transfers between USA and Canada or just entering USA a Nexus card has saved me a huge amount of time. It is well worth the $50.

    • I completely agree. Unfortunately for me I never think of applying for one until I’m standing in the customs or security line and seem to promptly forget the moment I’m out of the line. One of my goals for this year is to finally get one.

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