Unions, industry and labour relations

Quebec City records passenger record, a high point for flying in Canada?

Quebec City, which is in the midst of a multi-million dollar expansion, received 1.7 million passengers in 2018, a record (photo: YQB)

It’s easier in Canada, this year, to note the airports that did not set a record, rather than go through the list of airports that did: Ft. McMurray (though in reality, that’s just a guess since the airport stopped routinely producing monthly passenger statistics in August), and Regina (which grew this year, but slipped badly in 2017).

Quebec City became the latest airport to report a record, Monday, announcing it served 1,774,871 passengers in 2018, up 6.2% over the previous year, and a new record.

“This is a significant increase for YQB and represents the 17th consecutive year of growth,” said Quebec City International’s President and Chief Executive Officer Gaëtan Gagné. “Over the past several years, we have made significant investments in the development, modernization and expansion of our facilities to respond to growing global traffic, remain competitive and offer a world-class passenger experience.”

The airport credits a new route to Calgary, increased service to Toronto and Montreal, and added flights to key destinations in the United States for the improvement.

The announcement is well timed, as representatives from across the Americas arrive in the Quebec capital for the Routes Americas conference beginning Tuesday. It the the first time the continent’s largest route development conference, bringing together airports, airlines and tourism organizations, has been held in Canada.

There are signs, however, that the massive increases may be easing across the country, good news for some airports, notably Vancouver, already bursting at the seams.

No one is suggesting a slow down, but the major airlines, Air Canada and Westjet, have signalled their domestic capacity growth will be limited in 2019 as they focus on more lucrative overseas markets, and Westjet reported last week a load factor of 80.5% in January, down 2 points from the previous year.

That leaves the ultra low-cost carriers, which despite phenomenal growth, remain marginal players in the overall Canadian market. Swoop takes delivery of three more aircraft before the end of the year, but will focus this summer on consolidating its core routes, while adding flights to select cities.

Flair Airlines will release its summer plans Wednesday, telling followers on social media “the new Flair is coming.” The airline signalled in December it expects to add flights, routes and destinations in 2019, and has been announcing some of those services on social media.

Canada Jetlines, meanwhile, has issued a flurry number of news releases in recent weeks, including announcing Vancouver as its base of operations, but has yet to fly a single flight or announce a start date.

So far, the ULCCs have largely concentrated on competing on established routes, meaning that any significant growth in the Canadian aviation market may be limited to a few lucky cities.

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)

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