Special Needs

Special Needs

CATSA recognizes that travel can be challenging for passengers with special needs. This section offers general information about planning your trip and what to do at the screening checkpoint, followed by specific information by special need.

Planning Your Trip

  • If you need someone to help you through the screening checkpoint, please contact your airline in advance. The person assisting you will need authorization from the check-in counter, and will have to go through the same security screening as other passengers.
  • If you have a medical condition that makes it difficult to stand in line or are unable to lift your baggage onto the screening belt, you should advise airline staff when your boarding pass is issued.
  • You can bring medical supplies, equipment and mobility aids. They can be brought in addition to the two carry-on bag limit.
  • You are not required to bring documentation to support your medical needs or condition. However, if you feel that it would help ease your screening, it should be presented to the screening officer along with your medically necessary items.
  • Prescription medications and essential non-prescription medications are exempted from the 100 ml or 100 g (3.4 oz) limit and do not have to be placed in a plastic bag. However, we recommend that these items be properly labeled (manufacturer's name or pharmaceutical label identifying the medication).
  • Check with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you to go through the walk-through metal detector or be screened using a hand-held metal detector.

At the Screening Checkpoint

  • When you arrive at the checkpoint, check if a Family/Special Needs line is available, where screening officers provide additional assistance to passengers who need more time or help with their belongings to get through security.
  • If a physical search or explosive trace detection (ETD) swab is needed, you can ask to be screened in a private search room.

Tip: You can speed up the screening process by being aware of carry-on baggage restrictions, knowing what to wear and knowing what goes in the bins before you arrive at the security screening checkpoint.

Passengers with limited mobility

  • If you need assistance, please inform the screening officer when you arrive at the checkpoint.
  • Tell the screening officer if you are not able to go through the walk-through metal detector unassisted. He or she will then offer you the following screening options:
    • Go through the walk-through metal detector with assistance from a non-metallic cane provided courtesy of CATSA (for temporary use for this purpose only);
    • Bypass the walk-through metal detector and be screened with a hand-held metal detector ;
    • Bypass the walk-through metal detector and undergo a full body scan; or
    • Bypass the walk-through metal detector and undergo a physical search.
  • Wheelchairs and mobility aids: Contact your airline in advance to arrange to transport your battery-operated wheelchair or mobility aids.
  • Screening officers will inspect your wheelchair or scooter and perform explosive trace detection as well as a physical search of both you and your mobility aid. You can stay seated during the inspection if you are unable to get up.

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Passengers with medically necessary equipment

  • If you need assistance, please inform the screening officer when you arrive at the checkpoint.
  • CPAP devices: The distilled water needed to operate Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices is exempt from liquid restrictions. In order to have a CPAP device screened, passengers may choose to either: 1) bring a clear plastic bag to place the respiratory device into for screening or 2) leave the attachments (tubes and mask) inside the case and place only the main electronic unit in the bin. See our infographic.
  • BiPAP devices: In order to have a BiPAP device screened, passengers may choose to either: 1) bring a clear plastic bag to place the respiratory device into for screening or 2) leave the attachments (tubes and mask) inside the case and place only the main electronic unit in the bin. See our infographic
  • POCs: In order to have a POC screened, passengers may choose to either: 1) bring a clear plastic bag to place the respiratory device into for screening or 2) leave the attachments (tubes and mask) inside the case and place only the main electronic unit in the bin. See our infographic
  • Medical defibrillators and small oxygen or air cylinders: These items may be packed in carry-on or checked baggage, but let your airline know in advance that you will be bringing them.
  • Ostomy supplies: Passengers with an ostomy pouch should tell the screening officer before the screening process begins. Ostomy supplies (pouches and flanges) can be packed in your carry-on bag. We suggest you prepare your flanges by cutting them in advance for your trip, in case you need them on board the plane. Paste tubes must comply with the liquids, aerosols and gels regulations (100 ml or less) and be placed in a clear 1 L plastic bag.
  • Diabetic supplies: Diabetic supplies and equipment such as syringes, insulin auto-injectors, jet injectors, and pumps are permitted. Syringes must be for personal medical use, and the needle guard must be in place. The person must possess medication that is to be administered by means of the syringe or needle and biojectors. Liquid medications (i.e. insulin) are exempted from the liquid restrictions (including gel or ice packs to refrigerate the medication). Juice and gel for passengers who indicate a need for such items to address a diabetic condition are also permitted. 
  • If you have a medically necessary item that is not listed here, review the list of permitted mobility aids and medical items.

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Visually impaired passengers

  • If you are travelling with a service animal, contact your airline in advance to find out about related policies.
  • If you would like assistance, please inform the screening officer when you arrive at the checkpoint. Upon request, supervisors at major Canadian airports are available to provide you with verbal and physical guidance through all steps in the screening process.
  • Visually impaired passengers and their service animals can pass through the walk-through metal detector either separately or together.
  • Or, you can choose to bypass the walk-through metal detector and use alternate screening options, such as the use of a hand-held metal detector, a full body scanner or physical search.
  • You don’t need to remove your service animal’s harness but carrying bags or pouches must go through the X-ray and be swabbed for explosive trace detection (ETD) testing. The screening officer will visually inspect your service animal and its harness.
  • All passengers travelling with animals, including guide dogs, must be swabbed for ETD testing.

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Deaf or hearing-impaired passengers

  • If you need assistance, please inform the screening officer when you arrive at the checkpoint.
  • You can be screened without removing hearing aids or devices. These can be inspected visually while you are wearing them.
  • As hearing aids, devices and cochlear implants could be affected by X-ray and metal detector technology, CATSA recommends you ask for a full body scan or physical search.

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Passengers with prosthetic limbs, orthotic devices, medical casts, large bandages or dressings

  • If you need assistance, please inform the screening officer when you arrive at the checkpoint.
  • If your prosthesis, orthotic device, cast or dressing contains metal, you can bypass the walk-through metal detector. The screening officer will recommend alternate screening options, such as the use of a hand-held metal detector, a full body scanner or physical search.
    The screening officer will visually inspect your prosthesis, orthotic device, cast or dressing (if possible) and conduct an explosive trace detection (ETD) test. He or she will also swab your hands, waist area and foot (or footwear) for ETD testing.
  • Note that small gas cylinders for mechanical limbs are permitted in both carry-on and checked baggage.

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Passengers with metal implants

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Passengers with implanted medical devices

  • If you have an implanted medical device (e.g. pacemaker, defibrillator, infusion pump, ostomy pouch or blood glucose meter), please tell the screening officer where the device is located before screening begins.
  • All passengers with implanted medical devices can bypass the walk-through metal detector.
  • Passengers with pacemakers or defibrillators should not be screened by walk-through or hand-held metal detectors.
  • The screening officer will recommend appropriate options, such as a full body scanner or physical search. He or she will also visually inspect your device and swab your hands, waist area and foot (or footwear) for explosive trace detection (ETD) testing.

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Children with disabilities

  • Disabled children can be screened without being separated from their parents or guardians.
  • If you need assistance, please inform the screening officer when you arrive at the checkpoint.
  • Before the screening process begins, inform the screening officer of your child’s needs and suggest the best way to approach and screen your child.
  • If your child cannot be screened using a walk-through metal detector, a hand-held metal detector or a full body scanner, the screening officer can perform a physical search.
  • Parents/caregivers should review the physical search procedures for minors.

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Passengers with developmental or intellectual disabilities

  • Passengers with developmental or intellectual disabilities such as autism or Alzheimer’s disease can be screened without being separated from their travelling companions.
  • If you need assistance, please inform the screening officer when you arrive at the checkpoint.
  • Before the screening process begins, inform the screening officer of the passenger’s needs and suggest the best way to approach and screen the passenger.
  • If the passenger cannot be screened using a walk-through metal detector, a hand-held metal detector or a full body scanner, the screening officer can perform a physical search.

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