Is a 1 hour layover enough time in Toronto? Not always. Here’s why:

Is a 1 hour layover enough time in Toronto? Not always. Here’s why:

Wondering if a 1 hour layover is enough time in Toronto? I’ve got good news: in many situations, yes, that’s plenty of time. However, there are a handful of situations where it won’t be.

  • In general, 45 minute domestic to domestic connections at YYZ are possible as long as you’re not changing terminals.
  • The problem (as you’ll read below) is that there are two separate terminals at the Toronto Airport. They are not connected airside, meaning that you’ll have to go through a security checkpoint to get into either one. Combine that with a possible need to go through customs or US Preclearance, and it gets a little hairy.

Don’t worry though. I’ll explain the time that you’ll need for each situation in greater detail below. Feel free to reach for the antacid before proceeding (if you must).

The reason why a 1 hour layover is enough time in Toronto (sometimes)

If you are connecting from one Canadian city to another at the Toronto Pearson International Airport, and you’re not changing airlines, 1 hour or less is enough (most of the time).

You most likely won’t have to change terminals, and your connecting flight will be located within short walking distance to you were arriving flight. It’s easy.

For the majority of passengers who travel through YYZ, this will be the case.

gate F63 toronto airport
Thinking back on it, not having enough time to make the connection to my first ever Air Canada Rouge A321 economy class experience wouldn’t have been all that bad. Air Canada Rouge sucks, by the way.

Reasons why a 1 hour layover might not be enough time

The problem with the Toronto Airport is that there are two separate terminals. Although they are connected by a very convenient train (officially referred to as Terminal Link), you can’t get from one to the other without having to go through a security checkpoint.

If you are making a domestic to domestic connection at YYZ, and you need to change terminals, plan for a minimum layover of an hour and a half.

You’re going to need even more time than that if you need to pass through the US Preclearance checkpoint, or if you’re arriving from an international flight (since you’ll have to go through Canadian passport control and customs).

How does that antacid taste? Don’t worry, here’s where I start breaking down how long of a layover you’ll need for each situation…

What is the minimum layover for domestic flights at YYZ?

As noted above, and my personal minimum layover time for a domestic to domestic connection in Toronto is 45 minutes if I’m not changing terminals.

If I’m changing terminals, I would want an hour and a half since it’s impossible to know how long it’s going to take to get through the security checkpoint.

gate B29 Toronto airport
Standing in line here at gate B29 (about to try Air Transat A330-300 economy for the first time), I overheard lots of people talking about how gnarly their layover was. The people who had it the worst swore the most.

What is the minimum layover for international flights at YYZ?

Unlike many other major international airports in the world, making an international connection in Toronto is a little different depending on where you’re flying to. Here are the three possible scenarios and the time you’ll need for each layover:

1. Connecting TO a flight headed to the United States:

The good news about connecting to a US-bound flight in Toronto is that you’ll pass through United States passport control and customs at the Toronto airport. You won’t have to do that when you arrive in the US.

The bad news is that the US Preclearance procedure is going to add some extra time to your layover.

Going through US Preclearance takes just as much time as going through passport control at any other airport. Therefore, since it’s impossible to really know how long that’s going to take, I would want a 2 hour layover when connecting to a flight bound for the United States.

2. Connecting TO an international flight (anywhere in the world other than the United States):

Connecting to an international flight (other than one bound for the US) from a domestic flight in YYZ is about the same as it is for making domestic to domestic connections. You won’t have to pass through any passport control or customs checks, but you might have to change terminals. It just depends on what airline you’re flying.

If you don’t have to change terminals, a 1 hour layover will be sufficient. If you do have to change terminals, go easy on yourself and try for a 2 hour layover if it’s an option.

SANspotter at YYZ airport
A snapshot of the only layover I’ve had at YYZ that didn’t have me hating the idea of deciding to become a travel blogger. Being bored inside the Toronto airport is rare (and weird) for me!

3. Connecting FROM an international flight:

Connecting from one international flight to a another in Toronto is going to happen one of three ways (I told you this was going to be complicated):

A. Connecting from an international flight to a domestic flight:

Since you’ll need to pass through passport control and customs upon arrival, give yourself a little extra time. A 2 hour minimum layover is what I recommend.

B. Connecting from an international flight to a US bound flight:

Instead of passing through passport control and customs to enter Canada, you will be directed towards the queue to enter the US Preclearance area to “officially” enter the United States (even though you’re technically still in Canada). This will take just about as long as it would if you’re entering Canada. Plan for 2 hours.

C. Connecting from an international flight to another international flight (other than the US):

Making a connection from one international flight to another in Toronto may require a terminal change. Not always, but it’s always better to plan for the worst. A 2 hour layover is the absolute minimum you would want for this type of connection.

YYZ airport F concourse
If it helps to reduce your anxiety any, just know that the F concourse is wide open and optimally designed to sprint through at top speed.

A brief overview of the terminal layout at the Toronto Pearson International Airport

The layout of the Toronto Pearson international airport drives my OCD absolutely nuts. There are two terminals (1 and 3), which are connected by a train which runs between them every few minutes.

YYZ terminal map
I know. The YYZ terminal map makes less sense the longer you look at it. Keep scrolling!

The problem I have with the layout of YYZ is the naming of the terminals. Terminal 2 simply doesn’t exist. Not only that, the lettered gate groupings aren’t very well organized. It’s a little confusing.

Walking time between all terminals at YYZ

The Toronto Pearson International Airport is massive. It’s the largest airport in Canada (in both size and passenger volume), and it can be a bit intimidating on your first visit.

Thankfully, it’s a very passenger-friendly airport and walking from one end to the other isn’t all that challenging. The Terminal Link train which connects both terminals makes things go a lot faster. The bottleneck obviously is having to go through an additional security checkpoint to enter each terminal.

Here’s how long it takes to walk between all terminals and gates at YYZ:

Terminal 1 A gates to:

  • Terminal 1 B gates: 5 minutes
  • Terminal 1 C gates: 10 minutes
  • Terminal 3 D gates: 15 minutes (+ the time it takes to go through security)
  • Terminal 3 E gates: 15 minutes (+ the time it takes to go through security)
  • Terminal 3 F gates: 15 minutes (+ the time it takes to go through security)

Terminal 1 B gates to:

  • Terminal 1 A gates: 5 minutes
  • Terminal 1 C gates: 5 minutes
  • Terminal 3 D gates: 15 minutes (+ the time it takes to go through security)
  • Terminal 3 E gates: 15 minutes (+ the time it takes to go through security)
  • Terminal 3 F gates: 15 minutes (+ the time it takes to go through security)

Terminal 1 C gates to:

  • Terminal 1 A gates: 10 minutes
  • Terminal 1 B gates: 5 minutes
  • Terminal 3 D gates: 15 minutes (+ the time it takes to go through security)
  • Terminal 3 E gates: 15 minutes (+ the time it takes to go through security)
  • Terminal 3 F gates: 15 minutes (+ the time it takes to go through security)

Terminal 3 D gates to:

  • Terminal 1 A gates: 15 minutes (+ the time it takes to go through security)
  • Terminal 1 B gates: 15 minutes (+ the time it takes to go through security)
  • Terminal 1 C gates: 15 minutes (+ the time it takes to go through security)
  • Terminal 3 E gates: 8 minutes
  • Terminal 3 F gates: 11 minutes 

Terminal 3 E gates to:

  • Terminal 1 A gates: 15 minutes (+ the time it takes to go through security)
  • Terminal 1 B gates: 15 minutes (+ the time it takes to go through security)
  • Terminal 1 C gates: 15 minutes (+ the time it takes to go through security)
  • Terminal 3 D gates: 8 minutes
  • Terminal 3 F gates: 5 minutes 

Terminal 3 F gates to:

  • Terminal 1 A gates: 15 minutes (+ the time it takes to go through security)
  • Terminal 1 B gates: 15 minutes (+ the time it takes to go through security)
  • Terminal 1 C gates: 15 minutes (+ the time it takes to go through security)
  • Terminal 3 D gates: 11 minutes
  • Terminal 3 E gates: 5 minutes 

As always, plan to give yourself a little extra time if it’s your first time at this airport. And maybe even a little more time than that if you’re traveling with anyone who just doesn’t want to be there with you. Hey, it happens.

YZ terminal link train
I was just trying to get a nice picture of the Terminal Link train, but the look this woman gave me totally ruined the mood. Never mind her. It’s a nice train.

How long of a layover do you need in Toronto for a no-stress connection?

Making a n0-stress connection in Toronto is going to take a bit more time than other airports. I blame this fully on the fact that you’ll need to pass through additional security checkpoints to move from terminal to terminal. Here’s how long I would want for a no stress layover in Toronto for a variety of different situations:

1. Domestic to domestic connections

Even though a terminal change is highly unlikely if you’re making a domestic to domestic connection, I would still want a 2 hour layover. Just in case.

2. Domestic to United States connections

Terminal change or not, you’re going to have to pass through US Preclearance before boarding your flight. This is exactly like going through passport control at any other airport. Call me paranoid, but I would want a 3 hour layover to keep from stressing myself out. 

Note that I said the same thing in my guide to short layovers at YVR, so 3 hours isn’t a YYZ-specific thing.

3. Domestic to international connections (to anywhere other than the US)

2.5 hours is probably overkill, but you just never know what kind of hoops you’re going to have to jump through when transiting through the Toronto Airport.

4. International to domestic connections

No matter where you’re coming from in the world, making an international to domestic connection in Toronto will be a lot easier if you have 3 hours. Going through passport control and customs can be a mofo.

5. International to international connections

Would I sound like a sissy if I think that a 3 hour layover would be ideal for an international to international connection in Toronto? Nobody probably needs that much time, but I sure would like to have it (if possible).

YYZ airport food
If you do end up missing your flight, take solace in the fact that a cold beer isn’t hard to find anywhere inside YYZ. 

Useful tips for making a 1 hour layover at Toronto

A 1 hour layover isn’t going to be possible for everybody transiting through the Toronto Airport. The good news is that, by doing a little research ahead of time, you’ll know exactly if it’s going to be possible in your situation.

If you think it might be possible, but you’re still a little unsure, here are a few tips to help you get through it:

  • In order to avoid having to change terminals, make every effort possible to fly the same airline (or at least the same airline alliance). Airlines and airline alliances are grouped together well at YYZ, making terminal changes extremely rare.
  • If your connecting to a flight bound for the United States, it would behoove you to sign up for a fast track program such as NEXUS or Global Entry. These programs will allow you to expedite the process of going through the US Preclearance procedure, you’ll be on your way faster than most.
  • Study the terminal maps ahead of time! The Toronto Airport doesn’t look all that gnarly on paper, but it may seem overwhelming on your first visit. Your experience is going to be a lot nicer if you already know what to expect before you arrive.

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