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Monthly civil aviation statistics, July 2020

Released: 2020-09-30

Highlights

In July, key operating metrics for the Canadian airline industry continued to show some signs of recovery from the low-point in April, albeit with modest improvements.

Although more passengers took to the skies in July, major Canadian airlines were still facing paltry demand compared with last summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic. These airlines carried 845,000 passengers on scheduled and charter services in July, down 89.5% from the same month in 2019, but almost twice as many passengers as in June 2020.

As in the previous month, the recovery was largely driven by domestic travel as international demand remained generally weak from cancelled routes and reduced flight frequency amid the border restrictions and quarantine enforcements.

Compared with July 2019, air traffic plunged to 1.7 billion passenger-kilometres, pushing operating revenues down 88.3% to $291.9 million in July.

Passenger load factor—the ratio of passenger-kilometres to available seat-kilometres—was 41.4% in July, less than half of what it was in July 2019. Since 2015, this ratio had remained near or above 80.0% until falling to a low of 26.0% in April.

Pandemic severely affects the summer travel season

Entering into what would normally be the busiest travel period of the year, global air travel remained at historic lows. While an improvement was observed compared with previous months, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) noted that this was driven primarily by domestic markets, especially in Russia and China. Of the international markets, only the segment within Europe showed signs of recovery following the relaxation of travel restrictions. The IATA also noted that passenger demand has not lived up to the expectations of airlines who have been adding more flights and capacity to their schedules.

In Canada, one Level I air carrier (Air Transat) resumed limited operations towards the end of July after four months of shutdown. Another one (Porter Airlines), however, has postponed its planned date for restarting flights until November.

Passenger demand continues to show early signs of recovery

Canadian Level I air carriers flew 845,000 passengers on scheduled and charter services in July, down 89.5% from the same month in 2019. This marked the fifth consecutive year-over-year monthly decline—a period with the sharpest and deepest drop in passengers carried ever experienced by Canadian aviation.

Infographic 1  Thumbnail for Infographic 1: Disruptions to the Canadian airline industry
Disruptions to the Canadian airline industry

Year over year, the decline in July was less severe than those recorded in April (-97.0%), May (-96.7%) and June (-93.9%), as the total passenger volume continued to increase gradually. This growth was underpinned by falling air fares (the Consumer Price Index for air transportation fell 8.6% over the same period) and by domestic (within Canada) tourism as options for vacations abroad were still very restricted.

In contrast, international demand remained essentially flat. The July passenger index (January index = 100) for scheduled domestic flights was almost eight times greater than for scheduled international flights (including Canada-United States). Reflecting this low international passenger demand, international air carrier movements (take-offs and landings) at major Canadian airports only rose marginally in July.

Infographic 2  Thumbnail for Infographic 2: Indexes of passengers carried and air carrier movements, domestic and international, January to July 2020
Indexes of passengers carried and air carrier movements, domestic and international, January to July 2020

Airline operating revenue totalled $291.9 million in July, down from $2.5 billion (-88.3%) in the same month a year earlier.

Traffic fell 92.7% year over year to 1.7 billion passenger-kilometres in July, while capacity contracted 84.7% to 4.0 billion available seat-kilometres. As a result, the passenger load factor in July dropped to 41.4%, down significantly from July 2019 (86.8%) and slightly lower than June 2020 (45.8%), but higher than April (26.0%) and May (34.1%) of this year. With far fewer international flights available, each passenger travelled an average of 1,966 kilometres in July, down 30.7% from July 2019.

As the number of flying hours fell 82.8% to 36,000 in July, the volume of turbo fuel consumed declined 83.1% to 132.6 million litres.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Passengers carried, Canadian air carriers, Level I
Passengers carried, Canadian air carriers, Level I

Chart 2  Chart 2: Passenger load factor, Canadian air carriers, Level I
Passenger load factor, Canadian air carriers, Level I

Chart 3  Chart 3: Turbo fuel consumed, Canadian air carriers, Level I
Turbo fuel consumed, Canadian air carriers, Level I

  Note to readers

The Monthly Civil Aviation Survey covers all Canadian Level I air carriers: Air Canada (including Air Canada Rouge), Air Transat, Jazz, Porter, Sky Regional, Sunwing and WestJet (including Swoop, WestJet Encore and WestJet Link).

The number of air carriers increased from six in 2019 to seven in 2020, as one Level II air carrier was reclassified to Level I.

The average passenger trip length is obtained by dividing the number of passenger-kilometres by the number of passengers. Trips across Canada and the world are included in this calculation.

Data in this monthly release are not seasonally adjusted.

Data for the previous nine months have been revised.

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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