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Airport Review: The Lowdown on Montreal's International Airport

In Yahoo Travel’s Airport Review series, we dissect everything you need to know — from check in to take-off to landing. Want to know what it takes to get a perfect, 5-star rating? A hotel beyond security check — but not many airports pass the test. 

Airport Review: The Lowdown on Montreal's International Airport

Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (Photo: Abdallahh/Flickr)

Star Rating: 2.5 stars. With some recent renovations and the addition of self-service stations, Canada’s third-busiest airport, Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International (YUL), seeks to change its reputation as one of the worst in the country.

montreal airport

The automated baggage drop (Photo: Montreal Airport/Facebook)

The Good: In 2013, YUL installed 12 automated passport control kiosks that allow Canadians and Americans to preclear U.S. customs. New baggage drop stations also aid passengers flying to the U.S. To help ease a long layover, the airport features about a dozen locally known restaurants and shops (most of them in the international terminal). A good layout and relatively small size make the commute from one terminal to another painless — if you don’t mind walking fast to catch a connecting flight.

The Bad: Security personnel have a blasé attitude about, um, security. Baggage can (and likely will) take up to an hour to arrive on the conveyor belt. Curbside taxi service moves sluggishly, and there are no moving walkways.

 Related: Judging Silicon Valley’s Airport: The San Jose Review

montreal airport

Who doesn’t love free Wi-Fi? (Photo: Henry Faber/Flickr)

Best Amenities: Free Wi-Fi, free luggage trolleys, and a spa offering 15-minute services.

Public Spaces: Though generally clean, both U.S. and Canadian terminal spaces look tired. Thanks to the illuminated columns, photography, and art installations, the international terminal and nearby public spaces look better. 

montreal airport

Try the tapas at Vino Volo Restaurant. (Photo: Montreal Airport/Facebook)

Food: The best restaurants, most of which are local favorites, are located in the redesigned public spaces and international terminal. They all offer meals to go.

International terminal: At Vino Volo (4 a.m.–10 p.m. daily, Gate 52), a small but tasty tapas menu is paired with local and international wine flights. Across the way is chef Louis-François Marcotte’s Cabine M (Gate 52), a brasserie that serves gourmet veal burgers topped with Québec cheeses.

U.S. terminal: The usual suspects are here, including Burger King and Starbucks. Get a beer and some wings at Bar le Sportif (Gate 81). Pick up sushi to go from Tatami (Gate 79) or a smoked meat sandwich from Lester’s Deli (Gate 79).

Canada terminal: Get an Original Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich at Moe’s Bar & Grill (Gate 2); see what all the fuss is about with cup of Joe and a dozen Timbits (mini doughnuts) to go from Tim Hortons (Gate 3), a proudly Canadian institution. 

montreal airport

Montreal Airport Marriott (Photo: Marriott Hotel)

Hotel: There is no hotel inside security. But Montréal Airport Marriott is just an escalator ride away from the U.S. departures terminal. The hotel has a fitness center, an indoor pool, and a pleasant (by airport standards) restaurant and bar.

montreal airport

Shopping duty-free in the Montreal Airport (Photo: Montreal Airport/Facebook)

Shopping: Quebec and Canadian products and brands are well-represented in the duty-free shops. There’s a Cirque du Soleil shop (5:30 a.m.–9:45 p.m., Gate 50) with lovely overpriced souvenirs (is there any other kind?); gourmet maple products at Les Délices de l’Érable (Gates 52 and 73); and French- and English-language magazines and books at Maison de la Presse (Gates 57, 74, 82). There’s also an iStore (Gates 47, 53) and a Mexx clothing store (Gate 76).

Plugs/Charging Outlets: There are plenty of charging stations and outlets. Some are even built into the seats found throughout the lounges and restaurants. 

Related: Airport Review: How to Brave Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport  

montreal airport

Security at YUL (Photo: Corbis Images)

Security: YUL has a bad rap in this department. No matter which terminal you fly into, customs is a long walk (no moving walkways, remember?), followed by lots of lines and more waiting. Don’t be surprised to find security agents deep in conversation with one another. Signage is hit-or-miss, depending on whom you ask. I found it straightforward but saw many people looking dazed and confused. Keep in mind that if you are flying to the U.S., you preclear customs and go to the U.S. terminal, which is closed off from the rest of the airport.

In Summary: Flying in is relatively painless. Departure, specifically if flying to the U.S., is another story. For a city as beautiful as Montreal, it’s unfortunate that the last impression it makes is this airport.

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