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Quarterly civil aviation statistics, fourth quarter 2018

Released: 2019-04-30

The number of air carriers decreased from 26 in 2017 to 25 in 2018, as one Level II air carrier was reclassified to Level IV.

Total operating revenue for the 25 largest Canadian air carriers increased 10.6% from the fourth quarter of 2017 to $6.3 billion in the fourth quarter. This growth was driven primarily by increases in both passenger (+12.6%) and goods (+18.5%) revenue. Passenger revenue accounted for 87.6% of the total operating revenue, while goods revenue comprised 7.2% of the total. Total operating expenses grew 11.9% to $6.1 billion, mainly driven by higher fuel prices year over year and by the increase in capacity.

As a result, the operating ratio for the largest airlines—operating expenses expressed as a proportion of operating revenue—was 0.98 in the fourth quarter, a slight decrease from 0.96 in the fourth quarter of 2017. Overall, this means that these airlines incurred expenses of roughly 98 cents to generate one dollar in revenue.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Operating revenue and expenses, Canadian air carriers
Operating revenue and expenses, Canadian air carriers

The major airlines experience another quarterly net loss

Net operating income fell 23.9% to $153.9 million in the fourth quarter. This amount, combined with a net non-operating loss of $402.2 million, produced a net loss of $248.4 million.

Canadian Level I and II air carriers spent $1.6 billion to purchase turbo fuel, up 23.7% compared with the same quarter in 2017, and paid $1.1 billion in wages, salaries and benefits (+6.3%) to their 61,450 employees. The average number of employees was up 7.4% over the fourth quarter of 2017. Other operating expenses (55.5%) accounted for the largest share of total operating expenses in the fourth quarter, followed by turbo fuel (26.4%) and wages, salaries and benefits (18.1%).

These airlines recorded a profit margin—net income divided by operating revenue—of negative 4.0%. In other words, every dollar of service sold in the fourth quarter resulted in a loss of 4.0 cents for these carriers.

Operating revenue per employee rose 3.0% year over year to $101,871 in the fourth quarter. The level of labour productivity, as measured by tonne-kilometres flown per employee, declined 0.4% compared with 2017 to 96,906 tonne-kilometres.

The number of passengers rises at a slower pace

The 25 Canadian air carriers carried 21.2 million passengers in the fourth quarter, up 3.8% from the fourth quarter of 2017. This followed a 6.0% gain in the third quarter of 2018 and represented the smallest increase in eight quarters. The number of passengers flying on scheduled flights rose 4.3% to 20.8 million, while the passenger counts on chartered flights decreased 13.3% to 476,000. All three sectors posted gains: domestic (within Canada) rose 2.6% to 11.3 million passengers; transborder (between Canada and the United States) edged up 0.9% to 4.7 million passengers; and other international increased 9.5% to 5.3 million passengers. For the fifth consecutive quarter, the growth in other international passenger traffic outpaced that of the two other sectors.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Passengers carried, by sector, Canadian air carriers
Passengers carried, by sector, Canadian air carriers

Traffic and capacity for scheduled services both recorded notable increases in the fourth quarter. Year over year, traffic was up 7.3% to 50.0 billion passenger-kilometres, while capacity rose 6.7% to 62.0 billion available seat-kilometres.

With the gain in demand greater than the increase in capacity, carriers recorded a slightly higher passenger load factor in the fourth quarter (80.5%) for their scheduled services than in the same quarter a year earlier (80.1%).

Chart 3  Chart 3: Passenger load factor, Canadian air carriers
Passenger load factor, Canadian air carriers

  Note to readers

This release covers Canadian Level I and II air carriers. The number of air carriers decreased from 26 in 2017 to 25 in 2018, as one Level II air carrier was reclassified to Level IV. This carrier is included in 2017 data.

Level I air carriers include every Canadian air carrier that, in the calendar year before the year in which information is provided, transported at least 2 million revenue passengers or at least 400 000 tonnes of cargo.

Level II air carriers include every Canadian air carrier that, in the calendar year before the year in which information is provided, transported (a) at least 100,000 but fewer than 2 million revenue passengers; or (b) at least 50 000 tonnes but less than 400 000 tonnes of cargo.

Net non-operating income and loss are from commercial ventures that are not part of the air transportation services; from other revenues and expenses attributable to financing or other activities that are not an integral part of air transportation; and from special recurrent items of a non-periodic nature. Provision for income taxes is also included. Non-operating income can be, for example, capital gains from the sale of aircraft, interest income and foreign exchange adjustment, while non-operating expenses can include capital losses and interest on bank loans and other debt.

Data in this release are not seasonally adjusted.

Data for the second and fourth quarters of 2017 and for the second and third quarters of 2018 have been revised.

Due to rounding, components may not add up to the total.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca).

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