Canadian air travel demand grows by just over 4% in 2015; Toronto Pearson passes 40 million mark, Vancouver breaks through 20 million

Milestone mania in Canada last December. Toronto Pearson passed 40 million passengers in a calendar year for the first time last year, while Vancouver reached 20 million passengers in a single year just a few days before Christmas. Balloons seem to have been very much the order of the day to commemorate these achievements.

In 2015 a total of 16 airports in Canada handled over one million passengers, the same number as in 2014. Passenger numbers at 10 of the country’s top 11 airports (ninth ranked Toronto City Airport has not yet made its statistics public) grew by 4.1% to just over 115 million passengers. This compares with growth of 6.1% in 2014, 2.7% in 2013 and 3.7% in 2012. Last year saw the country’s busiest airport, Toronto Pearson, break through the 40 million passenger mark for the first time, while second-ranked Vancouver passed the 20 million passenger milestone for the first time. Among the country’s leading airports, only Edmonton (down 0.7%) and Kelowna (down 0.6%) saw passenger demand drop last year compared with 2014. Two airports just outside the top 10, Saskatoon and Fort McMurray, which both handled over one million passengers last year, saw passenger numbers fall by 2.6% and 16% respectively.

Canadian airports traffic development Year-on-year change in monthly passengers

Source: Airport websites.

Vancouver leads way on US growth

The eight busiest Canadian airports all break down their traffic figures into domestic, transborder (US) and international (non-US). A graph of 2015 ‘growth’ for each airport by geographic region reveals that domestic traffic was up at all eight airports, though none saw growth of more than 5%, with Winnipeg leading the way with +4.7%. In the transborder market just three of the eight airports reported growth; Vancouver (+8.0%), Toronto Pearson (+6.2%) and Montreal (+3.8%).

Top 8 Canadian airports 2015 Change in passenger numbers by region versus 2014

Source: Airport websites.

International (non-US) traffic was up at seven of the eight airports, with Edmonton reporting impressive double-digit growth of 15% followed by Toronto Pearson (+8.9%) and Vancouver (+7.1%). Only the airport serving the country’s capital in Ottawa reported a drop in international (non-US) traffic, of 2.0%.

New for S16

This summer sees Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat all launching multiple new international services. Of particular interest will be the start of WestJet’s wide-body operations from London Gatwick to a number of Canadian destinations, while Air Canada rouge is adding several new transatlantic services. While most new international services from Canadian airports are operated by local carriers, has identified some that will be operated by foreign carriers.

  • Brussels Airlines: Brussels to Toronto Pearson (April);
  • Delta Air Lines: Salt Lake City to Toronto Pearson (May);
  • Hainan Airlines: Beijing to Calgary (June);
  • Icelandair: Reykjavik/Keflavik to Montreal (May);
  • Jet Airways: Amsterdam to Toronto Pearson (March);
  • National Airlines: Orlando to Vancouver (May);
  • Tunisair: Tunis to Montreal (June);
  • WOW air: Reykjavik/Keflavik to Toronto Pearson (April) and Montreal (May);
  • Xiamen Airlines: Xiamen to Vancouver (July).

Brussels Airlines’ inaugural flight from Brussels arrived at Toronto Pearson on 7 April. This new service maintains a link between the Belgian capital and Toronto after India’s Jet Airways moved its operation from Brussels to Amsterdam at the start of the summer season.


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