April passenger numbers fell almost 97% at Vancouver International


Passenger numbers show the depths of the pandemic were worse than previously reported

A wildlife officer patrols the perimeter fence at Vancouver International Airport (photo: Brett Ballah).

Vancouver International Airport said Tuesday its passenger numbers in April dropped almost 97% from the same month in 2019, suggesting traffic fell more during the pandemic than has previously been reported. Generally, airports have said their traffic fell 95% during the pandemic.

Canada’s second-largest airport said 68,730 people passed through the terminal in April, compared to 2,077,843 in April 2019. That means the airport this year handled fewer people in one month than it would normally handle in a single day.

The airport saw almost 99% less transborder traffic during the month, as Canada and the United States closed the border to all but essential travel. Traffic to overseas destinations also fell dramatically. Overall, the airport said passenger numbers are down more than 38% year-to-date.


Vancouver normally serves as a major North American hub to destinations in Asia.

Aviation analysis company OAG projected Tuesday that North America would see an uptick in traffic, with Air Canada’s projected capacity doubling from May to June.

Data compiled by Western Aviation News suggest Vancouver will see 219 weekly departures to destinations in Canada aboard Air Canada, the airport’s largest carrier, 50% more than it offered in May. Air Canada also plans the gradual reintroduction of service from Vancouver to six destinations in the United States if the border closure between the two countries is allowed to expire later this month.

The country’s second-largest carrier, Westjet, plans 67 weekly departures from Vancouver to points within Canada in June.

The third-busiest carrier at Vancouver, Pacific Coastal, also restarted service in June, with flights to 10 destinations all in British Columbia.

Vancouver laid off 130 employees in May as the airport copes with a drastic drop in revenues due to the pandemic. In Canada, most airport revenues are tied to passenger traffic and aircraft landing fees. Vancouver recorded fewer than 5,000 aircraft movements in April, a drop of more than 70% from the previous month.

Vancouver International reported moving 16,572 tonnes of cargo in April, slightly more than in March, and about 30% less cargo than it handled in April 2018. In response to the pandemic, airports across Canada have emphasized their role in moving cargo to keep supply lines moving and deliver vital medical supplies to those who need it.