Airport Activity: Air Carrier Traffic at Canadian Airports, 2018

Release date: July 25, 2019

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The number of passengers enplaned and deplaned at Canadian airports reached 159 million in 2018, an increase of 5.4% compared to the previous year. This marked the ninth consecutive annual increase in air passenger traffic following the economic slowdown of 2009.

The largest airports contributed significantly to the strong growth in passenger traffic, with Lester B. Pearson in Toronto up 5.2%, Vancouver International up 6.9%, Pierre Elliott Trudeau in Montréal up 6.8% and Calgary International up 6.6%.

All sectors experienced growth in 2018, as the domestic sector expanded 4.2% (+3.7 million passengers), other international traffic was up 7.9% (+2.6 million) and transborder traffic (between Canada and the United States) increased 6.4% (+1.9 million).

For the fifth consecutive year, growth in other international passenger traffic outpaced the other two sectors. This was driven by strong gains at Toronto/Lester B. Pearson (+7.5%), Montréal/Pierre Elliott Trudeau (+9.3%) and Vancouver International (+10.5%). These three airports accounted for 89% of the 35.6 million passengers who enplaned and deplaned on and off international flights in Canada.

The weight of cargo loaded and unloaded at Canadian airports increased 8.9% in 2018 to just over 1.4 million tonnes. Domestic cargo increased 3.9% to 600,000 tonnes. Other international tonnages increased 17.2% to 591,000 tonnes while transborder cargo was up 3.4% to 243,000 tonnes.

Table 1
Passenger and cargo data
Table summary
This table displays the results of Passenger and cargo data 2017, 2018 and Change 2017 to 2018, calculated using number and percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
2017 2018 Change 2017 to 2018
number percent
Enplaned and Deplaned Passengers
Domestic Segments 88,284,134 91,967,316 4.2
Transborder Segments 29,519,218 31,414,516 6.4
Other International Segments 33,005,099 35,627,219 7.9
Total 150,808,451 159,009,051 5.4
Loaded/Unloaded Cargo (tonnes) 1,316,627 1,434,068 8.9

Chart 1 Total enplaned/deplaned passengers

Data table for Chart 1 
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1 passengers (millions) (appearing as column headers).
passengers (millions)
1999 85,243,957
2000 86,003,003
2001 81,751,079
2002 78,229,504
2003 78,391,224
2004 87,799,030
2005 94,605,005
2006 101,677,328
2007 106,433,442
2008 109,360,095
2009 104,765,830
2010 109,099,196
2011 113,471,763
2012 119,197,489
2013 123,909,945
2014 129,868,870
2015 133,426,703
2016 140,892,544
2017 150,808,451
2018 159,009,051

Note to Users

Cargo data

It is important to note that the air cargo data presented does not represent the total cargo loaded and unloaded in Canada. Comprehensive cargo data are not collected for the following reasons:

i. the regional and local scheduled carriers do not file cargo data on the airport activity survey and,

ii. the major charter survey does not collect data on domestic courier cargo or domestic entity cargo flights.

Passenger flights which carry cargo on them are classified as passenger flights. The cargo carried on these passenger flights is defined as belly-hold cargo. The belly-hold cargo data are included with the pure cargo data in the cargo table, Table 23-10-0254-01.

Services offered by carriers

Scheduled Services

Major Charter Services

Factors which may have influenced the data


On January 1, 2018, Air Canada issued a travel alert for passengers using airports in Toronto, Montréal, Calgary and Ottawa due to a deep freeze that brought extreme cold, snow, and icy conditions. Nearly 500 flights at Toronto/Lester B. Pearson International were either delayed or cancelled.

On January 4, 2018, a powerful winter storm, or “bomb cyclone” hit the northeastern United States and Atlantic Canada, causing thousands of flight cancellations at various airports. Snowfall accumulation in parts of New Brunswick peaked at 60 cm. By the morning of January 4, flights in and out of U.S. cities impacted by the storm had caused approximately 15% of all flights to be cancelled at Toronto/Lester B. Pearson International.  All flights were suspended at New York’s John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports. Flights from most airports resumed on January 5, however there were still numerous delays and cancellations. By January 7, many airports were still struggling to cope with a backlog of flights.

In early February, 2018, Cargojet began operating scheduled international freighter service between Canada and South America and added a second frequency between Canada and Europe. The scheduled flights are as follows: Hamilton to/from Bogota, Columbia and Lima, Peru (via Atlanta, Georgia), operating Fridays and Sundays; Hamilton to/from Cologne, Germany, operating on Saturdays.

On February 23, 2018, an Island Express Air aircraft carrying 10 people slid off the runway at Abbotsford. On February 28, 2018 the company’s air operator certificate was suspended.

Starting in March 2018, WestJet began service expansions on a number of domestic routes. From Calgary, some of these frequency increases include: Abbotsford, Kelowna, Nanaimo, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie and Halifax. From Edmonton, some of the expansions include: Fort McMurray and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. From Vancouver: Fort St. John, Kelowna and Victoria, and from Toronto, Ontario: Saskatoon and Victoria.

Starting March 24, 2018, Icelandair resumed flights, four times per week, from Edmonton to Reykjavik, Iceland. Previously, for most of 2017, the flights were six times per week.

On April 14, 2018, Porter Airlines increased its service to Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador; offering a total of 50 round-trip flights between Stephenville and Halifax between April and January 5, 2019. The flights will also connect with Ottawa/Macdonald-Cartier International and Toronto/Billy Bishop Toronto City on the same aircraft.

On April 30, 2018, Orca Airways, based out of Vancouver International, permanently ceased operations.

On May 1, 2018, Air Canada, operated by Air Georgian, began flights from Toronto/Lester B. Pearson International to Eppley Airfield, in Omaha, Nebraska. This was the first international carrier to touch down at the airfield.

On May 8, 2018, Transport Canada issued a release stating that Saskatchewan-based West Wind Aviation was cleared to fly again, after having its operator’s certificate suspended in December 2017.

On May 25, 2018, Hainan Airlines began twice-weekly service between Vancouver International Airport and Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport, via Tianjin Binhai International Airport, both in China.

On June 6, 2018, Ukraine International Airlines began non-stop service between Toronto/Lester B. Pearson International and Kiev, Ukraine. Flights will depart Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.

On June 15, 2018, Flair Airlines expanded its route network to begin flying from Halifax/Robert L. Stanfield Airport; Saskatoon/John G. Diefenbaker International; Calgary International; Prince George and Victoria International. This brings its operation from 90 flights per week to 208 flights per week.

On June 20, 2018, WestJet’s discount airline, Swoop, departed on its maiden flight from Hamilton to Abbotsford. The airline will initially fly out of Hamilton, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Halifax and Abbotsford, with additional destinations eventually being added.

On June 21, 2018, WestJet Link, a new regional air service in Western Canada, took flight. The service will operate under a capacity purchase agreement with British Columbia-based Pacific Coastal Airlines Ltd. WestJet Link will connect the Alberta communities of Lethbridge, Lloydminster and Medicine Hat and the B.C. communities of Cranbrook and Prince George to WestJet’s network hub at Calgary International Airport.

On June 26, 2018, Island Express Air had its license reinstated by Transport Canada after having it suspended on February 28.

On June 26, 2018, Air North launched new service between Whitehorse and Mayo, Yukon. The airline will offer up to five flights per week, driven by demand from the region’s mining sector.

On August 19, 2018, several British Columbia airports, including Kelowna, Penticton, Kamloops and Castlegar, reported cancelled flights due to wildfire smoke. In Kelowna, there was less than one kilometre of visibility, which would have prevented smaller aircraft from landing safely.

On August 30, 2018, Montréal/St-Hubert Airport, Quebec inaugurated its newly upgraded primary runway. The upgrade means the airport will now be able to accommodate larger aircraft, such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus A220/320 aircraft. The airport hopes to eventually attract low-cost passenger carriers.

On August 31, 2018, Calgary-based Integra Air ceased operations.

On October 27, 2018, WestJet concluded its service to Sudbury Airport, Ontario. The airline had resumed operations to the city in February 2017 after not flying out of the airport since 2001.

On October 27, 2018, Flair Airlines ended all service to and from Hamilton and moved its southern Ontario operations to Toronto/Lester B. Pearson International.

On October 28, 2018, WestJet reduced its national capacity, decreasing service on many of its routes from across Canada and cancelling several.

On November 1, 2018, Oslo, Norway based Norwegian Air Shuttle began flights between Montréal/Pierre Elliott Trudeau International and Martinique, in the French West Indies.


Starting February 5, 2017, Air Canada began daily year-round non-stop flights between Dallas-Fort Worth Airport and Vancouver International.

On February 16, 2017, Air Canada launched daily year-round flights from Montréal/Pierre Elliott Trudeau International to Shanghai, China.

On March 15, 2017, WestJet launched twice daily service between Montréal/Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport and Halifax/Robert L. Stanfield International Airport.

Effective March 28, 2017, Cathay Pacific increased the capacity of its flights on two routes, Vancouver-Boston and Vancouver-Hong Kong. Flights between Vancouver International Airport and Hong Kong increased from twice daily to 17 flights per week. The airline operates the new Airbus 350-900. Earlier in the year, the airline had announced a codeshare arrangement with Air Canada which allowed Cathay Pacific customers to travel to major cities across the country on Air Canada domestic flights.

On April 30, 2017, WestJet launched a daily direct flight between Winnipeg/James Armstrong Richardson International to Abbotsford.

In May, 2017, Air Canada introduced six new transborder routes, adding new service to five U.S. cities and expanding winter-only service to Phoenix, Arizona from Vancouver International to year-round. The new routes are as follows: Toronto to San Antonio, Texas (daily); Toronto to Memphis, Tennessee (daily); Toronto to Savannah, Georgia (daily); Vancouver to Denver, Colorado (twice daily); Vancouver to Phoenix (daily); and Montréal to Dallas-Fort Worth (daily).

On May 1, 2017, Air Canada commenced daily year round service between Montréal/Pierre Elliott Trudeau International and Washington Dulles International Airport, D.C.

On May 1, 2017, Aeromexico Airlines increased capacity on all three of its existing Canadian routes, expanding Vancouver-Mexico City from 11 to 14 weekly flights, Montréal-Mexico City from 11 to 13 weekly flights and Toronto-Mexico City from 10 to 12 weekly flights. The increases will be maintained year round.

On May 4, 2017, WestJet started direct service between Calgary International and Nashville, Tennessee. The airline will operate two flights a week.

On June 1, 2017, Vancouver International Airport celebrated the inauguration of two new non-stop seasonal services; Air Canada’s daily service to Frankfurt and Air Canada Rouge’s three times a week service to Nagoya, Japan.

On June 1, 2017, Aeromexico launched non-stop service from Calgary International to Mexico City.

On June 1, 2017, Air Canada Rouge began service four times per week from Toronto/Lester B. Pearson International Airport to Berlin, Germany.

On June 9, 2017, after a 14 year hiatus, Air Canada resumed flights between Taipei and Vancouver International. The daily direct service will be flown using a Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner configured to carry 298 passengers.

Starting mid-June 2017, EVA Air increased the frequency of its flights from Taipei, Taiwan to both Vancouver International and Toronto/Lester B. Pearson International to meet increasing demand. Daily non-stop service to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, Taiwan from Vancouver began June 15 and Toronto June 16.

On June 15, 2017, WestJet began point-to-point service for the first time within the province of Quebec, with four daily flights between Montréal/Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport and Québec/Jean Lesage International.

On June 24, 2017, Air Canada Rouge began daily seasonal service between Victoria International Airport and Toronto/Lester B. Pearson International using a Boeing 767. With a capacity of 280 passengers it is the largest regularly scheduled airplane to operate out of the airport. Continuation of the service will be reviewed in the fall. The airline also operates daily direct service to Toronto using an Airbus.

On June 30, 2017, Hong Kong Airlines began daily flights between Vancouver International Airport and Hong Kong, China, with an A330 aircraft featuring 18 business class and 246 economy seats. The airline plans to introduce an A350 aircraft in August.

On July 1, 2017, Air Canada launched a new three-times weekly service between Toronto/Lester B.  Pearson International and Mumbai, India. This non-stop, year round service will be operated using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

On September 12, 2017, Porter Airlines began daily service from Ottawa/Macdonald-Cartier International Airport to Fredericton International Airport, New Brunswick.

On September 21, 2017, Porter Airlines flew its inaugural non-stop flight from Ottawa/Macdonald-Cartier International Airport to Saint John Airport, New Brunswick. The flight will be operated daily with a 74-seat Bombardier Q400 aircraft.

On October 15, 2017, WestJet commenced twice daily service between Montréal/Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport and Boston Logan International Airport, Massachusetts.

In December 2017, West Wind Aviation, based in Saskatoon, Stony Rapids and La Ronge, all in Saskatchewan, voluntarily suspended all flying operations.

On December 1, 2017, Air Canada began the first ever non-stop flights between Canada and Melbourne. The seasonal service will run from Vancouver International Airport four times per week until February 4, 2018.

On December 15, 2017, Flair Air expanded its service to four new airports: Toronto/Lester B. Pearson International; Vancouver International; Kelowna, British Columbia and Edmonton International, Alberta, operating several times per week.

On December 18, 2017, Air Canada operated its inaugural flight from Toronto/Lester B. Pearson International Airport to Cartagena, Columbia. Since the beginning of December, Air Canada also began operation of the following new services: Toronto/Lester B. Pearson International to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Toronto/Lester B. Pearson International to Belize; Montréal/Pierre Elliott Trudeau International, Quebec to Lima and Vancouver International, British Columbia to both Melbourne, Australia and Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

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