Canadian traffic up 30% in last four years; Zoom’s closure takes out 11% of UK capacity

Image: Air Canada launch daily service between Ottawa and Frankfurt on 1 June
Air Canada is by far the largest carrier on international routes with just over one-third of all international capacity. It launched a daily service between Ottawa and Frankfurt on 1 June.

Canada has an impressive 247 airports which currently offer scheduled services, though only 29 of them have international flights. In 2007 all the airports combined handled around 117 million passengers. Toronto Pearson airport handled over 31 million passengers and the top four airports at Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary handled around 60% of all Canadian airport passengers. Add in the figures for Edmonton, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Halifax and Canada’s top 8 (C8) airports handled just under 80% of all Canadian airport traffic.

Map: Canada

Chart: Top 8 Canadian airports 2000-2007
Source: Airport websites

In the early part of the decade airport traffic in Canada was in decline, falling by over 8% at the C8 airports between 2000 and 2003. However, traffic finally rebounded in 2004 and grew by 12% followed by three successive years of growth of between five and six percent. Since 2003 traffic at Edmonton has grown by 56% and at Calgary by 43%.

Chart: Canadian airport seasonality 2007
Source: Airport websites

The seasonality profile of Canada’s top four airports in 2007 was fairly similar, with the main peak in August and a local peak in March. February and November are the worst months for travel demand.

Chart: Top 16 Canadian airports
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 1 September 2008
Image: Westjet profit share cheque
WestJet’s next profit share party takes place in November. The last cheque presentation – for more than $30m – to employees took place last May.

Based on current scheduled capacity Toronto continues to be the dominant airport. The ninth busiest airport at Victoria is less than half as busy as Winnipeg in eighth place. The development of services by Porter Airlines at Toronto City Centre airport has catapulted the airport back into the top 15 busiest airports in Canada.

41 domestic airlines but Air Canada and WestJet dominate

Although a total of 41 airlines operate domestic scheduled services, Air Canada and WestJet account for around 81% of all scheduled seat capacity. However, they only account for 57% of frequency as a multitude of smaller niche airlines operate to some of the remoter regions of the country.

Chart: Top 15 Canadian domestic airlines
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 1 September 2008

Many of these smaller airlines will be virtually unknown to non-Canadians. The demise of JetsGo in June 2005 and CanJet’s decision to abandon scheduled flights in September 2006 paved the way for the creation of a virtual duopoly on the major domestic trunk routes.

Chart: Top 12 Canadian domestic routes
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 1 September 2008
Note: Toronto is just YYZ in this analysis.

Zoom’s demise knocks out 11% of Canada – UK capacity

Air Canada is by far the largest carrier on international routes with just over one-third of all international capacity. Adding in the capacity of other Canadian carriers such as Air Transat, WestJet and Porter, Canadian airlines still have under 50% of scheduled capacity on international services.

Airline Frequency share Capacity share Number of routes
Air Canada 37.8% 34.0% 153
United 11.6% 8.9% 26
Air Transat 2.6% 6.3% 52
American 7.9% 5.9% 16
Northwest 6.5% 4.4% 19
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 1 September 2008

Over 80% of international flights are coming from or going to the US, though since these flights often use smaller regional aircraft they only account for 56% of all international seat capacity. America’s “big 6” carriers have a combined share of 30%, with Delta the least well represented with just 3% of the market. Southwest famously does not operate any international flights but JetBlue, AirTran and Spirit are also absent from the Canadian market. However, Frontier does fly daily from Denver to Vancouver.

The UK is the second largest country market with over 10% of scheduled capacity followed by France (5.8%) and Germany (4.8%). Hong Kong, the Netherlands and China each have between a 2% and 2.5% share of capacity. Zoom’s share of the UK – Canada market prior to its collapse last month was around 11%. Air Transat and some of the charter airlines are likely to benefit the most from the airline’s unfortunate demise.


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