Canadian airports see passenger numbers rise 3.7% during 2010; Air Canada and WestJet growing much faster

Ottawa is Canada’s fastest growing airport. Last week’s anna.aero Angel winner route, WestJet’s service from Ottawa to Las Vegas, will help the airport grow even further.

Ottawa is Canada’s fastest growing airport. Last week’s anna.aero Angel winner route, WestJet’s service from Ottawa to Las Vegas, will help the airport grow even further.

Canada’s major airports have mostly rediscovered growth during 2010. In the first three quarters of 2010, the country’s top 10 airports combined reported passenger growth of 3.7% to just over 72 million passengers. Among the top 10 airports only Kelowna (-0.7%) and Winnipeg (-0.4%) failed (just) to improve their passenger throughput compared with the first nine months of 2009. Leading the way with growth of 6.6% was Ottawa, followed by Montreal with 5.8% and Toronto (+4.6%).

Source: Airport websites

Source: Airport websites

In the first nine months of 2010 Ottawa has been the fastest growing of the top 10 airports on four occasions, Montreal three times, and Kelowna and Toronto once each.

Air Canada and WestJet both growing strongly

Although passenger numbers grew relatively modestly in the first three-quarters of 2010, the country’s two major carriers both reported much higher growth in demand (as measured by RPMs – Revenue Passenger Miles) during the first 11 months of 2010.

Source: Air Canada, WestJet

Source: Air Canada, WestJet

This apparent contradiction can be explained by the fact that average sector length for both carriers has increased as a result of expansion in foreign markets. For example, in the first three quarters of 2010, Air Canada’s domestic RPMs were up just 1.7% while total RPMs were up 9.7%. This is because trans-border (US) RPMs were up 12.8%, Atlantic RPMs were up 12.3%, Latin America RPMs were up 13.9% and Pacific RPMs were up 17.1%. Notice how 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.

Similarly, WestJet’s “guests” (its term for passengers) increased by 8.0% to 11.37 million in the first nine months of 2010 but RPMs grew by 12.5% as a result of the average sector length increasing by 4.4% from 922 miles to 963 miles. At the end of the third quarter the airline was operating 90 737s, up from 81 a year ago.


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