Passenger numbers stable in Canada in Q1; Ottawa only top 10 airport growing at more than 5%; Demand up at Air Canada and WestJet

Latest launch: Toronto to Cincinnati. Last week’s inauguration of Air Canada (Jazz) twice daily Toronto services to Cincinnati was welcomed with a refreshing hose down by CVG’s fire department, and a warmer welcome by airport Vice Chairman Michael L. Robinson.  See last week's Country profile 

According to data provided by Canada’s top 10 airports, passenger numbers passing through the country’s main airports remained virtually unchanged in the first quarter of 2010. The only airport to report growth of at least 5% in each of the first three months of this year was the airport serving the country’s capital in Ottawa. All of the leading airports (excepting Kelowna which has yet to report any traffic data for 2010) reported year-on-year growth in at least one month so far this year. The country’s busiest airport at Toronto Pearson saw traffic fall less than 1% in January and remain unchanged in February.

Chart: Top 10 Canadian airport development - Year-on-year change in monthly passengers: 1/08 to 4/10

Source: Airport websites

The recently renamed Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (formerly known as Toronto Harbour Airport) does not publish monthly traffic statistics but has revealed that it expects to see some 1.2 million passengers pass through the airport in 2010. This would rank it just outside the top 10 along with Quebec, St Johns and Saskatoon which should also all handle at least one million passengers in 2010. The downtown airport serving Toronto reported last week that it has had two carriers respond positively to its Request For Proposal to start new commercial services from the airport. At present only Porter Airlines operates from the airport using a growing fleet of Q400s.

Air Canada see volcano ash impact April figures

Although passenger numbers remained virtually unchanged across Canada’s main airports the country’s two major carriers both reported growth in demand (as measured by RPMs – Revenue Passenger Miles) during the first four months of 2010.

Chart: Canadian airline development 2008-10 - Monthly year-on-year ASM/RPM changes

Source: Air Canada, WestJet

This apparent contradiction can be explained by the fact that average sector length for both carriers has probably increased as a result of expansion in foreign markets. For example, in the first quarter of 2010 Air Canada’s domestic RPMs were up just 0.9% while total RPMs were up 6.5%. This is because trans-border (US) RPMs were up 3.5%, Atlantic RPMs were up 5.8%, Latin America RPMs were up 6.5% and Pacific RPMs were up a massive 23.6%.

Air Canada’s April figures were impacted by the volcanic eruption in Iceland which disrupted transatlantic flights for several days. As a result Atlantic RPMs were down 14% in April.

Air Canada and WestJet share 70% of capacity at eight of top 10 airports

A closer look to see how dominant Canada’s two major carriers are at the nation’s top airports reveals that they currently share over 80% of scheduled capacity at six of the top 10 airports and over 70% at eight of the top 10 airports.

Chart: Canada's top 10 airports - Market share of scheduled capacity

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 10 May 2010

Air Canada operates more seat capacity than WestJet at five of the top 10 airports (Toronto Pearson, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa and Halifax) while the relative newcomer has a bigger presence at Calgary, Edmonton, Kelowna, Victoria and Winnipeg.


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