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Aircraft movement statistics: Major airports, August 2021

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Released: 2021-10-28

Aircraft movements, total movements

423,522

August 2021

4.1% increase

(year-over-year change)

Highlights

In August, there were 423,522 aircraft movements at Canada's major airports, up 4.1% from August 2020. While this was the highest number of movements since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, it was three-quarters (74.8%) of the pre-pandemic level from August 2019.

At 14,608, movements to and from the United States also reached their highest number since March 2020, but remained just under one-third (32.4%) of the 45,017 movements reported in August 2019, before the pandemic.

Higher volumes of commercial passenger traffic helped to elevate Vancouver International and Toronto/Lester B. Pearson into the top three together for the first time since December 2020, and to lift Calgary International back into the top five for the first time since April 2020.

Canadian border measures ease in August

Travel restrictions for fully vaccinated Canadians were eased in July. This was extended to fully vaccinated US citizens and permanent residents currently residing in the United States, who, as of August 9, have been allowed to enter Canada without quarantine. On the same day, the number of airports accepting international commercial passenger flights increased from four to nine.

In a step forward for air travel, August marked the first full month of scheduled service for Air Transat and Sunwing after a six-month suspension, and WestJet launched its first new transatlantic service in 18 months.

Total movements rise, but remain below pre-pandemic levels

In August, total aircraft movements (take-offs and landings) at the 90 Canadian airports equipped with NAV CANADA towers and flight service stations reached 423,522, up from 406,796 movements in August 2020 and the highest number since November 2019. Year over year, in August 2021, itinerant movements (flights from one airport to another) increased 16.5% to 286,164, but local movements (in the vicinity of the airport) fell 14.8% to 137,358.

Despite this overall increase, total air traffic fell one-quarter (-25.2%) compared with August 2019, before the pandemic, with itinerant movements down 30.0% and local movements decreasing by 12.7%.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Total aircraft movements at major airports, by class of operation
Total aircraft movements at major airports, by class of operation

On March 11, 2020, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization and, in the months that followed, total aircraft movements remained well below historical levels. Unless otherwise specified, comparisons are made with the same month of 2019 (also referred to as "pre-pandemic"), when aircraft movement levels were in line with historical trends.

August sees improvements within Canada and abroad

Total domestic traffic (within Canada) in August stood at 265,660 movements, a figure that represents 76.5% of the number from August 2019.

Domestic movements by level I to III and foreign carriers edged closer to pre-pandemic levels, sitting at 67.9% of the level from August 2019. This was a significant improvement from July, when they were at 58.2% (compared with July 2019).

Aerial operations to combat wildfires continued in British Columbia, where Kamloops Airport saw notable increases compared with August 2019 (+1,124 movements), including significant helicopter and air tanker activity.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Domestic movements at major airports, 2019 to 2021
Domestic movements at major airports, 2019 to 2021

With the easing of travel restrictions for vaccinated Canadian and US citizens and permanent residents, August saw an uptick in international movements, in particular to and from the United States. At Toronto/Lester B. Pearson International, for example, transborder movements (to and from the United States) in August more than doubled (+108.8%) from June, before restrictions were relaxed.

At 14,608, total transborder movements in August reached their highest number since the onset of the pandemic (March 2020), but remained less than one-third of the pre-pandemic level of 45,017 movements reported in August 2019.

Infographic 1  Thumbnail for Infographic 1: Transborder movements at major airports, 2019 to 2021
Transborder movements at major airports, 2019 to 2021

Other international traffic stood at 5,896 movements, also the highest number since March 2020, but well below the 16,573 movements recorded in August 2019.

A discernible bump in international arrivals to Canada followed the September 7, 2021, easing of travel restrictions for all fully vaccinated international travellers. Please see weekly aircraft movement statistics for the most recent data on international movements.

Infographic 2  Thumbnail for Infographic 2: Other international movements at major airports, 2019 to 2021
Other international movements at major airports, 2019 to 2021

Canada's busiest airports

Canada's three busiest airports in August were Boundary Bay (21,692 movements), Vancouver International (19,563) and Toronto/Lester B. Pearson International (19,493). The uptick in commercial passenger traffic helped to elevate Vancouver International and Toronto/Lester B. Pearson into the top three together for the first time since December 2020. In addition, Calgary International moved back into the top five for the first time since April 2020.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Total aircraft movements at the top 10 Canadian airports in August, 2019 to 2021
Total aircraft movements at the top 10 Canadian airports in August, 2019 to 2021

  Note to readers

The Aircraft Movement Statistics: Major Airports Survey collects data on itinerant and local aircraft movements at major airports in Canada.

Major airports include all airports with either a NAV CANADA air traffic control tower or a NAV CANADA flight service station.

On November 5, 2020, NAV CANADA recognized the increase in air traffic at Red Deer Regional Airport in Alberta before the COVID-19 pandemic and changed its status from a flight service station to offer air traffic control service at the airport for 16 hours a day. As a result, effective November 1, 2020, monthly aircraft movement data for the airport are available in tables 23-10-0002-01 to 23-10-0008-01 (airports with NAV CANADA towers). Data prior to November 2020 remain available in tables 23-10-0009-01 to 23-10-0015-01 (airports with NAV CANADA flight service stations).

An aircraft movement is defined as a take-off, landing or simulated approach by an aircraft, as defined by NAV CANADA.

Data for August 2020 may have been revised.

The 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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