The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority conducts physical searches (also referred to by some as pat-downs) at airport screening checkpoints for primarily two reasons:
- If an alarm is activated at the metal detector you will have to undergo further screening to determine its source.
- If you require additional screening through random selection, you will need to undergo either a physical search or a full body scan (where available).
Random selection for additional screening is used to ensure the highest standards of security. Using technology to select people for random screening ensures that everyone has an equal chance of being chosen for secondary screening.
What can I expect during a Physical search (pat-down)?
A physical search (pat-down) may involve the following:
- a visual search by the Screening Officer to look for any unusual objects on the person;
- a physical search using touch to feel for possible concealed items hidden under a person’s clothes.
What happens during a Physical search (pat-down)?
The Screening Officer will ask if you would like to have the physical search performed in public view or conducted in private. If the second option is your preference, the physical search can be conducted in a private search stall (available at certain checkpoints across the country), or in a private search room (available at all airports). A private search stall will be located at the screening checkpoint and offers some privacy. A private search room offers complete privacy, and two Screening Officers will accompany you. One will carry out the search, while the other will serve as a witness. Both Screening Officers must be of the same gender as you.
Please remember to bring all of your personal belongings with you when going to a private search area so that they don’t get lost or stolen.
A physical search (pat-down) is performed by a Screening Officer of the same gender. This physical search is typically performed over your clothing and is done as a precautionary measure to determine any areas of concern. At times, it may be necessary for a Screening Officer to move, shift or slightly lift your clothing to finalize the search. To learn more about the process, view our physical search (pat-down) video.
Screening Officers must wear gloves during the physical search (pat-down). You may request that the Screening Officer change his or her gloves prior to your search.
A physical search (pat-down) is always conducted in the most professional and respectful manner possible.
What if I have a medical condition?
If you have a medical condition that requires special attention during the screening process, please don’t hesitate to let the Screening Officer know before the process begins. Let the Screening Officer know your level of ability and don’t hesitate to ask for assistance. If you have a disability, condition or implant (like a pacemaker or insulin pump) that you would like to remain private and confidential, please ask the Screening Officer to be discreet.