Canadian airports perform well in new North American analysis

A British Airways Airbus A380 lands at Vancouver International Airport in May. Vancouver ranked among the continent’s most connected international airports in a new report (photo: Brett Ballah).

A new report suggests Canadian airports from coast to coast, and right up into the Arctic, may not be the busiest facilities on the continent, but they are masters of their class.

A new analysis published by OAG, an aviation data analysis firm, shows that among North American airports, Canadian facilities hold their own when it comes to international connections, turn around time, and low-cost growth.

While it’s no surprise that U.S. airports dominate overall passenger numbers – Atlanta consistently ranks among the busiest in the world – Canada’s airports punch well above their weight when it comes to international service and destinations (OAG defines international service as both flights to the United States and overseas).

Toronto – Canada’s busiest hub airport – ranks only eighth on the continent with just under 30 million departing seats between May 2018 and April 2019. At the same time, it is the continent’s most connected international gateway, with 163 international routes, 35% of them to the U.S. It eclipses New York’s JFK which serves 127 international destinations.

Among the 32 largest airports airports on the continent, both Montreal (fourth) and Vancouver (ninth) fare well internationally. Both are international gateways for Air Canada, in particular.

Among the next tier of facilities, Canadian airports are more globally connected than the average. Calgary, with a Westjet hub and plenty of services from U.S. and European airlines came first among large airports with 43 routes. Edmonton (21) and Ottawa (20), which have both some lost U.S. service in recent months, round out the top three. Oakland is the next closest airport in this category, with only 13 international destinations.

“For Medium airports,” reports OAG, “the average international destinations served for the Top 10 is eight. Halifax (YHZ) is above average with services to 20 international destinations.” In fact, the list of Halifax destinations grew this summer with new American Airlines service to Philadelphia and New York. Quebec City, Winnipeg and Hamilton round out the top four airports in the category.

A Swoop Boeing 737-800NG sits on the tarmac at Kelowna International Airport. The Westjet subsidiary helped boost capacity at a number of small Canadian airports (photo: Swoop).

Canadian airports also perform well turning flights around quickly and getting schedules back on time. Montreal rated highest on the continent in this metric. Sixty-nine per cent of flights arrived on time, but 77% departed on time, an improvement of eight per cent.

Toronto-Pearson, despite its impressive size, came second in North America, improving on-time performance by more than six per cent.

Among large airports, Ottawa and Edmonton tied with a 6.5% improvement in on-time performance between arriving flights and departing flights.

“Continuing the trend, another two Canadian airports top this size band,” said OAG. “Thunder Bay and Saskatoon both manage to improve departing OTP by around nine percentage points over arriving OTP. They are joined in the Top 10 for Medium airports by Winnipeg,
Regina, and Toronto Hamilton.”

Finally, OAG gives top marks to Canadian airports for attracting low-cost carriers. Edmonton ranked ninth in North America, with a 17% jump in the number of low-cost seats departing the airport and LCCs holding a 58% market share. Calgary ranked 10th.

Among smaller airports, Abbotsford and Hamilton stand out among their peers, ranking fifth and eighth on the continent. “Abbotsford and Toronto (sic) stand out again in this category as they benefit from the launch of the Westjet backed ultra LCC Swoop,” reported OAG.

Even Canada’s Arctic airports manage to score well among small North American airports. Yellowknife was ninth-busiest in its category with 517,000 departing seats, and Whitehorse was among the fastest-growing small airports, with three new destinations added during the year for a total of eight.

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