Toronto, Vancouver best in category among world airports


Skytrax award comes the same day Vancouver International begins the layoff of 25% of its staff

In 2019, Vancouver International Airport celebrated its 10th Skytrax airport award (photo: Brett Ballah.)

The same day Vancouver International Airport announced it would proceed with the layoff of a quarter of its staff, Skytrax named YVR the best in the world among facilities handling 20-30 million people in 2020.

“Today, we began the difficult but necessary process of issuing layoff notices to many of our valued employees,” the airport said in a statement. “Our current workforce is sized to operate a 26 million passenger airport, and that is simply no longer sustainable.”

The Skytrax Awards, which measured airport customer satisfaction between September and February, marked the 11th straight year Vancouver has been honoured as best in its category.


Vancouver executives are planning for a much smaller future as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At YVR, we now expect to serve between 8 and 15 million passengers per year for the next three years, and we are reorganizing our workforce to align with current and forecasted operational requirements,” the airport said Monday.

Some 130 people out of 550 people that work for the airport authority will find out this week their jobs are affected. Cuts affect both union and management staff.

Toronto International, Canada’s largest hub was also honoured by Skytrax as the best airport in the 50 to 60 million passenger category, beating out competition from Barcelona, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Toronto’s Billy Bishop airport (sixth) and Halifax Stanfield International (seventh) finished in the world’s top-10 among airports serving fewer than five million passengers.

Montreal was honoured for “Best Airport Staff Service” in North America.

“This is a welcome achievement at a time when good news has been scarce in the airport industry in recent weeks,” the airport said in a release.

Airport revenues have been decimated for the past two months due to the pandemic as passengers stay home. Airports rely on airlines and the people they move for roughly two-thirds of their revenue. Last week, Toronto executives told their Annual Public Meeting that passenger numbers have dropped from 130,000 per day to less than 5,000.

The Canadian Airports Council warns airports could lose more than $2 billion in revenue this year. The council’s Chair, Joyce Carter, told the Commons Finance Committee airports may be forced to raise Airport Improvement Fees as much as 50% to make up the shortfall.

Vancouver International said it had reviewed government-sponsord options to avoid layoffs, such as a federal wage subsidy and the new Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility announced Monday in Ottawa.

The LEEFF will see Ottawa offer financing to companies – including airports – that can’t get loans on the open market to keep their operations going. But the caveat is the government set a floor of roughly $300 million in revenues to qualify.

In Canada, only Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and Calgary generated enough revenues last year to qualify. Edmonton, which reported $231 million in revenue last year, would come close, while other Canadian airports fall well below the bar.

Ottawa has forgiven the largest airports land rent they must pay for the rest of this year. But since the rents are based on income, airports say the help doesn’t amount to massive savings, though they would like the relief extended.

Editor’s note, the Skytrax Awards are for 2020, though voting continued over the new year. A previous version of this story said these were the 2019 awards.