Calgary International sets passenger record

Calgary International Airport set a passenger record in 2019, thanks in part to new international flights (photo: Calgary Airport Authority).

Calgary International Airport set a passenger record in 2019, welcoming almost 18 million passengers for the first time – and more than ever, the airport’s fate is tied to that of Westjet.

In all, 17,957,780 people passed through the airport, 3.5% more than in 2018. The totals were helped by the presence of Westjet’s Dreamliner base in the city, with the airline launching new flights to Paris and Dublin, on top of daily flights to London-Gatwick.

Passenger numbers overseas were up 8.5% on the year, including a 22% jump in June. There were 5.6% more passengers to the United States – 3.5 million – while passenger numbers on domestic routes from Calgary were up 2.3%, though growth virtually disappeared domestically in the last six months of the year.

Calgary is Westjet’s home base and by far and away its largest hub. Westjet plans further expansion in the summer with more frequencies to Europe and new flights to Rome. Service to the United States has also seen a huge increase in destinations and frequencies.

“We’re proud to have achieved another record year, connecting tourists to legendary attractions, locals to that long saved for vacation, reunion or getaway, business travelers to deal-making meetings and cargo to buyers across the globe. Our focus remains on ensuring every guest has a positive experience at YYC and in supporting our airline partners,” said Rob Palmer, Vice President Finance, Strategy & Chief Financial Officer, The Calgary Airport Authority.

The impressive results came even as the airport saw an estimated 2,300 fewer flights and 300,000 fewer seats as a result of the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max around the world after a pair of deadly crashes. The airport said it was the fourth most affected airport in North America.

Air Canada and Westjet responded to the crisis by cancelling flights, juggling capacity, and rerouting passengers.

Airport2018 passengers2019 passengers
Abbotsford, B.C.842,212*1,008,176*
Charlottetown, P.E.I.370,730*383,183*
Fredericton, N.B.423,234*427,085*
Kamloops, B.C.351,631361,586*
Kelowna, B.C.2,080,372*2,032,144
Moncton, N.B.681,473*674,406
Nanaimo, B.C.435,394
Prince George, B.C.506,486
Quebec City1,774,841*
Saskatoon1,518,980*1,490,000 (est.)
Thunder Bay869,404*
Winnipeg4,500,000* (estimate)4,500,000 (est.)
* – record (sources: airport reports)

The boost in Calgary came even as Edmonton, 300 km to the north, reported 100,000 fewer passengers in 2019. Other Canadian airports have reported stagnant passenger numbers for the year.