Toronto Pearson International shatters passenger record

Lester B. Pearson airport in Toronto is Canada’s largest hub. (photo: GTAA)

Toronto’s Pearson International Airport fell just shy of serving 50 million passengers in 2018, setting a record and new high-water mark for Canadian airports. The airport released its final passenger numbers Thursday.

In all, Pearson handled almost 49,507,418 passengers, more than 17 million of them headed to points other than in Canada or the United States.

The airport joined Montreal’s Trudeau International as the only two airports serving more people going to overseas destinations that Canadian ones.

More than 18 million people flew to destinations outside North America in 2018 from Toronto, an increase of 7.6% over the previous year. That eclipsed, for the first time, the 17.9 million people who flew to destinations within Canada.

The international growth reflects a strategy by Air Canada, the largest airline at Pearson, to funnel passengers between Europe and the United States through its Canadian hubs.

Passenger numbers to the United States also increased to 12.9 million, up 5.6% on the year.

It was a record year for flying in Canada, with airports large and small reporting their largest passenger numbers ever.

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)

CORRECTION: A previous edition of the above table mistakenly said Hamilton had set a passenger record in 2018. This was wrong, and the table has since been corrected. We regret the error.