Tracking Western flight movements

New data from Statistics Canada shows what we reported earlier on this blog; increasing passenger numbers in Edmonton (and, we’re learning, in Calgary and Vancouver) are not translating  into new flights.

The agency released aircraft movement data for the past 15 years, and they show the airlines are becoming far more efficient moving people about the country… meaning planes are fuller and the terminals, busier.

In fact, Calgary and Vancouver – Air Canada’s two major Western hubs – reached a peak of aircraft movement in 2007, just before the Great Recession, and have not recovered since. Calgary’s movements last year were 4.5 per cent below 2007 levels, and Vancouver’s a staggering 11 per cent below 2007 levels.

Despite this, both airports have launched ambitious expansions – Vancouver is spending almost $2 billion to make passenger connections easier, and Calgary is spending $2 billion on a new international terminal and new runway.

In Edmonton – which, by virtue of not being a hub has far fewer flights – the story is somewhat different; aircraft movements actually grew by a little more than two per cent between 2007 and 2011. YEG is set to open a new international arrivals facility on May 15.

All three airports have seen passenger growth during the past 15 years, so why no more flights? The simple answer is: efficiency.

Both Air Canada and Westjet release passenger data every month, including figures on their loads. And both routinely fill more than 80 per cent of their seats.

“Cost and competition have forced airlines to run more efficiently—flights are fuller and more cargo is being squeezed onto aircrafts [sic],” writes Todd Hirsch, a senior economist with ATB Financial.

“Each empty seat or square foot of cargo hold is really just wasted product. So the next time you hop on a plane, chances are, that middle seat will be taken.”

Aircraft Movements

Categories: Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver