I was flying out of Calgary International Airport the other day and came across the slowest and worst run airport security operation I have ever seen. Actually, it seems to be a recurring theme in Calgary when I am flying through there. I don't see the same types of delays and lack of good security personnel in any other airport in Canada.
As tempted as I was to swear and curse at the people taking their sweet time to scan everyone in, I decided to use the CATSA (Canadian Air Transportation Security Authority) website and file a complaint. I actually got a response and someone there wants to talk to me by phone about my complaint.
This is what I wrote to them (and it's my honest observations everytime I've gone through Calgary):
To: CATSA Complaints
From: Michael Laverdiere
March 24, 2009
Calgary International Airport has the most inefficient and slow security operation of any airport in Canada.
I fly regularly and have flown through all of the major airports in Canada and I have to say that Calgary's security operation needs a serious fine-tuning. This is after many flights out of the Calgary airport, but it seems to be worse in the US Departures.
Today I flew out of Calgary to Chicago and arrived 2 hours early for my flight. That's more than usual for me. I have Nexus and in Vancouver (where I live) I will arrive 60 to 90 minutes early and thats usually more than sufficient. In Calgary, this morning, it took more than an hour for my line to clear security alone. It took me 15 minutes to get checked in and I cleared US customs in 5 minutes.
Here is what I have observed to be the causes of the slow down:
Quite frequently there are enough people working security (not less than the other airports) but a lot of them are standing around not doing anything. I have even seen the person operating the x-ray scanner stop the machine and walk away for 5 to 10 minutes!
They frequently stop the whole x-ray scanning process when one person gets stopped for a manual inspection. In my line, they were waiting until that inspection was finished to start the scanning process again. This is absolutely unnecessary and doesn't happen anywhere else except Calgary.
If someone does not have their liquids in a plastic bag, they force the person to exit the security area, retrieve a bag and enter the line again. This hasn't happened to me, but I saw it frequently today in my ONE HOUR wait to clear security.
They do not have enough of the grey bins to place belongings going into the x-ray machine. The line is often STOPPED while they wait to free up more bins and often bins freed up in my line were being taken to other, equally-as-long lines.
Vancouver and Toronto have a Nexus security line so that those of us with Nexus can bypass the long lines. Where is that in Calgary?
Calgary domestic departures does not have enough scanning machines for a major airport.
One frequent problem I have come across - and is more serious - is that CATSA security personnel are so keen to catch people with too much liquid that knives and other forbidden sharp objects are making it through security. This is a SERIOUS problem. Maybe it's time to either loosen the liquid restrictions again, or train security personnel better.
Also, it seems to be inconsistent whether they will accept those liquids in a special CATSA bag or a plain, equally-sized plastic bag. In Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary they will make you go back for a CATSA bag where as Toronto and Vancouver, it's not as much of an issue. Is it necessary to be that specific about what kind of BAG it's in? Really!
I, luckily, made it to my gate as my flight was boarding. I believe several passengers missed their flights this morning.
I'd really appreciate a response to this because I'd like to be sure that CATSA actually cares about it's operations.
I'm supposed to talk to a representative from CATSA next week. It will be interesting to hear how it goes.