How much time between flights to pass customs from Paris to Toronto?
April 18, 2016 8:09 AM   Subscribe

I am buying my plane tickets for a trip this summer. One ticket has as its return a change of plane/layover time of 1hr 35m between the flight from Paris to Toronto and the flight from Toronto to Kansas City. Alternatively, I can go with a different flight that on the return goes from Paris to Chicago with a 2h 45m layover. I'm assuming the latter is the option I should go with due to Customs delays but want other traveler's opinions for confirmation.

Obviously my ideal outcome is to arrive home as quickly as possible; if the first flight will be fine then it would be preferable to a longer layover, but if it is probable that it will result in getting bumped and having to frantically find another flight, I'll prefer the second.

posted by vegartanipla to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
Second, hands-down. I did a similar international-US transition at Toronto that took 2 hours to get through 3 separate sets of lines at Toronto, and it's a biiiiig airport.
posted by Dashy at 8:13 AM on April 18, 2016

I'm not sure how long it would take under normal circumstances, but you should know that they will have you jump the line if your in danger of missing the flight. Agents usually go through the line looking for "anyone with a flight leaving before 4pm (or whatever)" and pull those people to the front.

Also, you should know if you don't already, that you will also have to go through US customs in Toronto before you're allowed to board a flight to the US. But same deal with hopping the line if you're late.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:13 AM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

It is a big airport. I would worry more about the walking than the lines, actually.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:14 AM on April 18, 2016

Yeah, Pearson is huge. And there's an ironclad rule there: Point A and Point B are always at opposite ends of the terminal.

Take the second option.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:22 AM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Agreed, take the longer layover. I waited for a good 45 minutes in Toronto and the line wasn't even that long.
posted by something something at 8:27 AM on April 18, 2016

The airport is big but efficient. The shortest connection times I have done are 1:40 entering the US and 0:55 leaving, both on Air Canada and without problems. Didn't have to jump the queue if I remember correctly. I'd say it depends on how many flights your airline has from Toronto to Kansas City, i.e., how much of a pain it would be if you miss the connection. And all assuming both flights are on the same ticket.
posted by fmnr at 8:39 AM on April 18, 2016

You are cutting things really short in Toronto, I'd definitely go for option 2 UNLESS you have a Nexus or GlobalEntry card, in which case 1 might work.
posted by jeather at 8:50 AM on April 18, 2016

Best answer: Pearson is really strange because you clear US customs there, not when you get back to the US. So you'll come from France, do the customs for that, then turn around, and re-scan and check back in via customs for the US IN CANADA! It's a HUGE schlep from gate to customs too, like a mile (not exaggerating). I have Global Entry's not all that great at Pearson. Once you get there, it's pretty efficient, but the haul through the airport is a huge hassle, especially if you've carried on a lot of your stuff. 90 minutes cuts it too close for my comfort.

So Chicago. Besides, 2:45 isn't really all that long. Sit down and have a nice meal, buy a magazine, pee. They'll board the plane 30 minutes before take off, so it's really only 2:15.

Bon Voyage!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:34 AM on April 18, 2016

I'm presuming you have to collect your checked bag to do customs and Pearson is terrible for getting bags off a plane. Like it's easily one hour, no exaggeration.

So yes #2. Enjoy a coffee and relax at the gate while waiting for your flight.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:47 AM on April 18, 2016

you should know that they will have you jump the line if your in danger of missing the flight. Agents usually go through the line looking for "anyone with a flight leaving before 4pm (or whatever)" and pull those people to the front.

That might be airport specific - I have had a TSA agent say "yep, I guess you are" when I said it looked like I was going to miss my flight because of the security line.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 10:37 AM on April 18, 2016

"anyone with a flight leaving before 4pm (or whatever)"

To clarify: Toronto airport agents will often move you up to get you into the lineup within the U.S. Customs and Border Protection area, but once in there the Customs agents won't care about your flight time. Once past US customs though, the passenger/baggage screening folks will also often help you jump to the front.

I wouldn't want to depend on all that, so would probably go for the longer layover, just to be safe. FYI, passengers just traveling from Toronto to the US are generally advised to arrive at the airport 2.5 hrs before departure.

Some of it also depends what day, and what time of day, your layover is. I'm guessing something like 7-10am and 4–8pm are probably busiest, and Fridays to Mondays.

Connecting Guide for Pearson airport (although it doesn't give you a time estimate).
posted by Kabanos at 11:27 AM on April 18, 2016

Response by poster: Another flight option just revealed itself, but I've crossed the Toronto one off the list, thanks to all your helpful advice. What's now looking likely is a 2hr layover between a Paris to Minneapolis flight and a Minneapolis to KC, so hopefully that's within the acceptable time margin as that's what I think I'm going for...
posted by vegartanipla at 12:08 PM on April 18, 2016

Best answer: That's totally fine IMO, it was the double customs (clearing Canadian customs, then US preclearance during the same layover) that was worrying us.
posted by ftm at 1:37 PM on April 18, 2016

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