Business aviation flights from the U.S. to Canada have increased significantly in the past year and many operators are seeking timely information about possible regulatory changes impacting trips north of the border.
“Vaccination requirements [for arriving passengers] are now gone,” said Anthony Norejko, president and CEO of the Canadian Business Aviation Association (CBAA). “The ArriveCAN app used during the lockdown is also no longer in use.” However, with increased traffic, available airport arrival slots may be a potential source of concern for operations to Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) and Montreal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL).
Before a business aviation flight, “you’ll be making at least two phone calls to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to initiate travel to Canada,” Norejko said. “The first is to 888-CANPASS (Canada’s trusted traveler program). Be prepared to give the responding officer the names of the flight crew and passengers, as well as their passport numbers, any declarations, and the purpose of the trip. The second call is upon the aircraft’s actual arrival into Canada where the clearance number is issued.” He said users should always jot down the officer’s badge number with the clearance number in case there’s ever a future question about the flight entering Canada.
Potential Construction Delays
Unlike the U.S., Canadian airports are funded by user fees. Revenue from those fees took a serious nosedive when traffic numbers declined during the pandemic.
Now that flights are increasing, Canadian airports are preparing to make much needed upgrades and repairs at many airports. To cope with potential construction delays, Norejko said, “Toronto Pearson is the first airport to stand up a slot program.” He said the best way to navigate these slot requirements is by coordinating directly with the destination FBO. “They have preferred access to slots and can lock in a specific arrival time a month out.”
Despite the anxiety any slot program tends to create about travel flexibility, Norejko said the system, “is still in its early days.” At the moment, there’s no penalty to users who stumble through the slot program. The current constraints at YYZ are focused on limitations to the central deicing facility. Crews should note that actual airport construction will begin later this spring or early summer, Norejko said.
Early planners for trips to the Canadian Northwest next year should know that Vancouver International Airport (YVR) will shut down one of its two runways in the spring of 2024.
Potential Rerouting Headache
There is one potential hiccup awaiting crews who like to hear “cleared as filed” when requesting IFR clearance. Norejko said CBAA has noticed more than a few reroutes that have caused headaches for some crews. He discovered the format in the Canadian Flight Supplement shows preferential departure routes (PDR), don’t always line up with the way some flight planning software such as flightplan.com displays them.
For instance, on a Toronto-to-Ottawa flight, most crews would assume they should check the preferred route leaving Toronto. But the actual preferred arrival routing into Toronto from the west can only be found when the crew checks the Ottawa arrival procedures.
“Those highlight a completely different routing from what the Toronto PDRs call for,” Norejko said. He advised crews who frequent Canada to remember the routes they’re given when cleared and to file those routes during their next trip. CBAA is working with NAV Canada on improvements.
Overall, operators should keep in mind that preflight preparations will go a long way toward a trouble-free flight. Flight crews should closely study Canada’s customs regulations and flight rules if they haven’t already. For informal tips, consider reaching out to pilots who have recently made the trip.
And finally, Transport Canada’s Flying to Canada page offers a trusted resource for critical information.