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Aircraft movement statistics: Major airports, March 2022

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Released: 2022-05-26

Aircraft movements, total movements

375,833

March 2022

6.2% increase

(year-over-year change)

Highlights

In March, exactly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, there were 375,833 aircraft movements at Canada's major airports. This number was an increase of 6.2% from the same month in 2021 and almost three-quarters (74.2%) of the number recorded in March 2019, before the pandemic.

Movements within Canada, to the United States and abroad all edged closer to pre-pandemic levels in March, signalling a rebound from the disruptions caused by the Omicron variant at the start of 2022.

Toronto/Lester B. Pearson International was Canada's busiest airport in March 2022.

Border restrictions ease

Late 2021, in response to the Omicron variant, the Government of Canada advised Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada and required all travellers entering Canada to provide a negative COVID-19 molecular test for entry.

Effective February 28, 2022, as an alternative to a COVID-19 molecular PCR test, travellers entering Canada have the option of a negative COVID-19 rapid antigen test taken the day before their scheduled flight, with only random on-arrival testing at airports. At the same time, the Government of Canada removed its advisory to avoid non-essential travel and lifted restrictions on the list of airports designated to accept international passenger flights.

Further easing of restrictions took effect in April 2022. The most recent data on aircraft movements are available in the Weekly aircraft movement statistics.

Total aircraft movements

Aircraft movements (take-offs and landings) at the 90 airports with NAV CANADA towers and flight service stations totalled 375,833 in March 2022, 6.2% higher than in March 2021. Itinerant movements (from one airport to another) rose by 24.5% to 242,912 while local movements (within the vicinity of the airport) were down by 16.4% year over year to 132,921.

March 2022 marked two years since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Total aircraft movements in March 2022 reached almost three-quarters (74.2%) of the number from March 2019, before the pandemic began. Itinerant movements were at 71.4% and local movements were at 79.9%.

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.

Domestic, international movements climbing

Total domestic (within Canada) movements in March 2022 were almost three-quarters (74.0%) of those recorded in March 2019. Domestic movements by Level I-III and foreign carriers within Canada were 68.9% of the level recorded before the pandemic (March 2019), a small improvement from the February recovery rate (66.8% of February 2019).

In March 2022, transborder (to and from the US) movements stood at just under three-fifths (58.9%) of their pre-pandemic levels (March 2019), and other international (i.e., outside of the US) movements were at just over three-fifths (61.5%). While the recovery rates (from March 2019) in both sectors improved over the first two months of the year, they remained lower than reported at the end of 2021.

On a monthly basis, the increase from February to March 2022 in all sectors (domestic, transborder and other international) was greater than the seasonal averages from 2015 to 2019. This was especially the case for transborder activity (+35.1%) and other international movements (+27.5%), both more than twice their five-year pre-pandemic average (15.6% and 13.2%, respectively).

March is typically the busiest month of the year for other international aircraft movements. Even with the increase from February, the number of movements was still less than that recorded in December 2021, before airlines reduced their winter schedules in response to Omicron. However, movements to the US, which typically peak in the summer months, climbed to their highest level since the start of the pandemic (March 2020).

Infographic 1  Thumbnail for Infographic 1: Transborder movements at major airports, 2019 to 2022
Transborder movements at major airports, 2019 to 2022

Infographic 2  Thumbnail for Infographic 2: Other international movements at major airports, 2019 to 2022
Other international movements at major airports, 2019 to 2022

Pearson remains on top

Canada's busiest airports in March 2022 were Toronto/Lester B. Pearson International (24,450 movements), Vancouver International (18,996 movements) and Abbotsford (16,444 movements).

Chart 2  Chart 2: Total aircraft movements at the top five Canadian airports in March, 2019 to 2022
Total aircraft movements at the top five Canadian airports in March, 2019 to 2022

  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.

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

Data for March 2021 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; infostats@statcan.gc.ca) or Media Relations (statcan.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.statcan@statcan.gc.ca).

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