Connecting in Toronto Pearson
June 19, 2014 7:35 AM   Subscribe

What happens to bags on US-international connections in Toronto Pearson, and is it feasible for me to go into Toronto for a day on a long layover?

I am considering taking a Boston-Toronto-Santiago flight round-trip on Air Canada this August. Both outbound and return, the possibility exists to take a long daytime layover (up to 11.5 hrs outbound or 15 hours return) in Toronto, which would give me enough time to go into the city, which would be nice.

Based on the Pearson website connecting guide (US<>international, Air Canada all flights) in the Santiago-bound direction, I normally wouldn’t have to clear Canadian immigration and would connect straight via the Connections/E gates to my departure gate to Santiago. Boston-bound on the return, I also wouldn’t have to clear Canadian immigration and would transit via the US Connections area, US preclearance and security screening, and head to my departure gate to Boston.

I am wondering:
- What will happen to my bags if I schedule these layovers, especially in the US-bound return. It seems like my bags will be checked straight through to Santiago and Boston without my having to claim and re-check them in Toronto, but if anyone can confirm this that would be great.

- Even if that’s the case, do airlines normally check bags through when layovers are this long?

- Since I wouldn't normally clear Canadian immigration in either direction, if I actually do head to Canadian immigration (in order to enter the country and spend some time in Toronto), will that be problematic in any way? I really don’t want to schedule an 11-hour layover in Toronto only to find that I have to stay in Pearson for the whole time.

US passport, no issues with entering Canada otherwise here.
posted by andrewesque to Travel & Transportation around Toronto, ON (7 answers total)
Transit from Pearson to downtown is about 45 minutes each way (by something immediate like a taxi; longer if you take a shuttle bus), and I would allow up to 90 mins each way during rush hour.

At least Air Canada has the nicest terminal at Pearson. There's even a fitness center!
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:46 AM on June 19, 2014

It's been a long time since I connected through Toronto, and even then it was only US <–> Canada. At the time, you had to pick up your bags in Toronto so that you had them with you when you cleared U.S. Customs (or Canada Customs) in Toronto. However, the bags were still "checked through" to your final destination; once you had cleared customs, there was a conveyor belt for you to deposit your checked bags back into the airlines' system.

In the time since I've connected through Toronto, I know that some other US preclearance facilities have started using a system where you don't actually physically have your bag with you when you go through customs. Instead, they show you a picture of your checked bag on a monitor. It's possible that this system is now in place in Pearson as well; I'm not sure. In any event, you won't have to re-check your bag per se, but you might have to re-claim your bag to go through customs. (Especially for the return flight, since you'd be going through US customs in Toronto.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:58 AM on June 19, 2014

I do not know if it is different for a long connection time, but:

I flew through Toronto on my way back to the US recently. My checked bag continued on without me needing to do anything. I had to go through Customs, and then security. (Note: this also means that you can't get liquids at the duty free when you're leaving your original location. They'll be confiscated at Toronto when you go through security.)
posted by inigo2 at 9:06 AM on June 19, 2014

And if you have Global Entry, it works in Toronto (they have the machines, and a separate, much shorter security line.)
posted by inigo2 at 9:07 AM on June 19, 2014

I flew from Mexico to a destination in Canada, with transit through Toronto. We were told while checking in in Mexico that we would have to pick our bags up in Toronto. As I recall, we picked them up as part of the process of clearing customs and then proceeded to drop them off on our way to our connecting (canadian) flight before going through security again. I'm not 100% sure, but I think you might be able to drop off your bag and leave to visit Toronto before checking through security again. But then, since you're outbound to the US, perhaps your path will be different.

I've taken the TTC airport rocket into Toronto a few times. The advantage to doing it is that you avoid some of the traffic gridlock. The disadvantage is that you have to transfer at Kipling station. Easily doable without luggage.

There is also a bus shuttle to and from the airport which drops you off at a spot downtown Toronto.
posted by Milau at 9:56 AM on June 19, 2014

Given the Toronto traffic these days I would definitely take the TTC linked by Milau above. It's an easy transit connection, one direct bus to the subway. $3.00 in each direction, will take you to most parts of the city you'd want to see on a layover.

No help with bags unfortunately. Maybe your airline can help?
posted by five_cents at 6:50 PM on June 19, 2014

I just flew last week from the US to China connecting through Toronto, and I never touched my checked bags in Toronto. Which strikes me as unusual now that I think about it; must be another US-Canada travel quirk, like how flights to Canada usually originate from US domestic terminals.
posted by serelliya at 7:39 PM on June 19, 2014

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