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Monthly civil aviation statistics, September 2020

Released: 2020-11-26

Highlights

In September, the recovery of air travel flattened out as major Canadian airlines carried 914,000 passengers on scheduled and charter services. This was down 86.8% from the same month in 2019, and down 16.2% from August 2020—similar to a typical seasonal decline.

As in previous months, most travel was domestic as international demand remained generally weak amid border travel restrictions and quarantine enforcements. However, domestic passenger volumes in September declined more than international passenger volumes compared with August.

Compared with September 2019, air traffic fell to 2.0 billion passenger-kilometres, pushing operating revenues down 85.3% to $315.7 million in September.

Second wave of COVID-19 threatens recovery

As COVID-19 infections began to rise in many countries during September, the recovery in global air travel slowed. The International Air Transport Association, which represents major airlines around the world, reported some growth the same month, but noted it was mostly driven by domestic markets in China and Russia. While domestic recovery ranged among countries from non-existent to pre-pandemic level, international traffic did not show any significant increase as many countries began to re-tighten restrictions amid a growing number of COVID-19 cases.

While major Canadian airlines carried over four times as many passengers in September as at the lowest point during the pandemic in April, the recovery flattened out with a year-over-year decline identical to that in August.

Infographic 1  Thumbnail for Infographic 1: Year-over-year percentage change in passengers carried, Canadian Level I air carriers, January to September 2020
Year-over-year percentage change in passengers carried, Canadian Level I air carriers, January to September 2020

Passenger demand slows as infections rise

Canadian Level I air carriers flew 914,000 passengers on scheduled and charter services in September, down 86.8% from the same month in 2019. This was identical to the 86.8% decrease registered in August, and marked the seventh consecutive year-over-year monthly decline—a period with the sharpest drop on record.

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, both domestic and international demand declined in September compared with August. However, the decline was stronger in domestic travel, which had been driving the recovery over the previous months.

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

Traffic fell 90.0% year over year to 2.0 billion passenger-kilometres in September, barely budging from a 90.3% drop in August, while capacity contracted 80.9% to 4.5 billion available seat-kilometres. As a result, the passenger load factor—the ratio of passenger-kilometres to available seat-kilometres—dropped to 43.9%, down significantly from September 2019 (83.6%), and also lower than in August 2020 (48.8%).

With far fewer international flights available, each passenger travelled an average of 2,138 kilometres in September, down 24.2% from September 2019.

As the number of flying hours fell 79.6% to 38,000 in September, the volume of turbo fuel consumed declined 79.6% to 141.0 million litres.

Operating revenue earned by Level I carriers totalled $315.7 million in September, down 85.3% from $2.1 billion the same month a year earlier.

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.

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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