Plane transfer timeline for international flights through Toronto
June 24, 2015 6:37 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I are planning a trip to the UK in August/September. We're looking at flying out of Minneapolis/St. Paul on Air Canada, with a stop at Toronto before continuing on to Heathrow, with the same itinerary reversed on the way back. Will an hour and a half be enough time in Toronto between flights? Since both our flights are international, will we be required to go through any kind of customs screening in Toronto on either leg, or will we be in the international terminal/area the whole time?
posted by LionIndex to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
More than enough and no customs screening, it's only the U.S. that makes you do that on transfers
posted by pravit at 7:08 AM on June 24, 2015

Best answer: You'll be fine on the way out. You'll clear customs and immigration in the UK.

The return leg is the problem. If possible, I would change your itinerary.

Pravit is wrong. You'll be clearing US immigration in Toronto.

I've missed connecting flights with 3 hour layovers doing that before. US immigration at Toronto is by far the slowest and understaffed I've ever experienced. You may have better luck if you're a US citizen, or doing Global Entry, but even then, I would change your itinerary if possible.
posted by caek at 7:15 AM on June 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

We did this trip a few years ago (USA--> Toronto--> UK) and had a 90 minute layover in Toronto. As far as customs etc at Toronto, this was very easy as the airline took us through a transfer area and we were in the departure lounge well before the flight. Unfortunately only one of our suitcases made it with us to London which wasn't too bad as we were going home. You may want to reconsider given that this will be the start of your trip.

Can't speak to the return journey as we arrived directly to the US.
posted by car01 at 7:50 AM on June 24, 2015

What caek said. I don't know why US immigration at Toronto is so bad, but it's terrible. 90 minutes is nowhere near enough time to deplane, get through US customs, and get to your departing flight.
posted by fedward at 8:54 AM on June 24, 2015

Response by poster: Clarifications:
- My wife and I are both US citizens
- I guess we have an hour and a half layover on the way to London, 3 hours on the way back. According to this page, it looks like we'll need to clear Canadian customs on both trips, and US on the way back.
posted by LionIndex at 10:00 AM on June 24, 2015

Warning if your flight back's at night: I got delayed on a flight back from London, and while I technically arrived in time to make my flight, US Customs had closed for the night, and I had to spend the night in Canada. So, that's a Thing that can happen.
posted by damayanti at 11:35 AM on June 24, 2015

Best answer: ++ what caek said.

I just did this in March, and the US customs part is 3 separate checkpoints (I don't know why or how but we waited in 3 separate lines; the electronic kiosks just funnel you into another line, wtf?), and we barely made it through in 2 hours.

In the last one, which was security (TSA), they were calling out destinations so people could skip the line, and it seemed like that was a regular occurrence.

Only reason I wasn't completely out of my mind was that we were flying a commuter leg back to our final destination, so I knew the next flight was in 2 hours.
posted by Dashy at 2:11 PM on June 24, 2015

Best answer: Nthing the incredible suckiness of U.S. Customs in Toronto. I passed through there from Edmonton to NYC last fall. In addition to everything else, just *getting* to Customs involved a very long and confusing journey. And that was before the real wait even started.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 5:20 PM on June 24, 2015

Best answer: Earlier this week some family members who'd visited us in Europe flew back to Minneapolis via Toronto on Air Canada. They had a scheduled 2 hour layover and still missed the connection. Partly this was due to a delay with their arriving flight, but the gauntlet of security and US customs (as well as dealing with Air Canada staff) in Toronto sounded pretty horrific and was the main reason for their missed connection. After waiting another 6 hours for a later flight they were told there was no space. And after spending the night at a hotel they had to go through the whole thing again the next morning.

Three hours for your connection should be enough under most circumstances but I'd allow for more time if you can. Or better yet, choose a different airline and a different route.
posted by theory at 6:09 AM on June 25, 2015

Response by poster: Yeah, we ended up deciding that it'd be easier to avoid YYZ than try to go through it, so we're taking a more direct route that goes from our hometown in Eau Claire to Chicago O'hare and then directly to Heathrow. Unusually the ticket cost is about the same - normally trips originating in Eau Claire are expensive enough compared to flights out of MSP that it's worth taking a shuttle out there. I know O'Hare isn't the easiest airport in the world either, but we have 3.5 hour layovers on both trips.
posted by LionIndex at 7:03 AM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

The right move. O'Hare pro-tips: eat at Tortas Frontera, and if you have a really long layover, buy a day pass for the gym in the Hilton in the airport, and sit in the steam room and sauna for an hour.
posted by caek at 7:16 AM on June 25, 2015

Response by poster: My wife and I are native Southern Californians; don't go making Mexican food recommendations lightly.
posted by LionIndex at 8:03 AM on June 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm not saying it's good Mexican food. I'm saying it's good airport food.
posted by caek at 5:43 PM on June 25, 2015

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