Three Canadian airports figure among the 50 most internationally connected facilities on the planet, according to new research published by OAG, an air travel data analysis firm.
Toronto ranked sixth among global megahubs, Vancouver 27th, and Montreal 41st. Tellingly, Air Canada – which is trying to grab an ever-expanding piece of the international travel pie – maintains hub operations at all three airports. Executives at Canada’s largest carrier have been open about their desire to capitalize on the larger American market by having passengers transfer between the U.S. and overseas destinations through their hubs.
London-Heathrow maintained its position as the most internationally connected airport, followed by Frankfurt which displaced Chicago for second place, while O’Hare maintained its position as the most internationally connected airport in North America.
To reach its conclusions, OAG calculated the total number of possible connections between inbound and outbound flights within a six-hour window, where connections to and between international flights were possible. The firm looked at the busiest day in July for its calculations.
“In an increasingly competitive landscape,” reads the report, “providing measures to enable comparison between leading international airports is key. The OAG Megahubs Index measures the effectiveness of the world’s leading international hubs as connecting points, globally and regionally, and provides a platform for comparison for these international airports.”
International connectivity can be an important for airports as a counterweight to economic peaks and valleys in domestic markets. For example, in Toronto, the number of domestic passengers has stayed relatively stable in 2019 compared to 2018, while the number of passengers to international destinations has risen three per cent. OAG estimates Air Canada is responsible for a staggering 59% of all traffic at Canada’s biggest airport.
Montreal – where Air Canada handles 58% of all flights – saw an even larger gain thanks to its international connectivity. While the domestic market has grown less than two per cent this year, and even shrank in July 2019, the international market has jumped a whopping 10% during the same period.
Montreal is home to both Air Canada and Air Transat, two companies in the midst of a merger. If regulators approve the sale, Air Canada executives have promised big gains for Canada’s second-largest city through even better international service and connections.
Vancouver, which has long benefitted from its location as a gateway to Asian countries, felt the pinch fewer passengers despite its international connections. For the first time in 53 months, year-over-year international passenger numbers dipped in July 2019 to 726,000 passengers, compared to 738,000 in 2018.
Airlines around the world, including domestic giants Air Canada and Westjet, have had to cancel flights, suspend routes, and re-route passengers to deal with the world-wide grounding of the Boeing 737 Max. The crisis has had a dampening effect on passenger numbers, reducing capacity on a number of key routes.