On-Track for Full Aviation Recovery in 2023

By Ted Nickerson, October 4, 2022

In the March 2022 posting, I identified that IATA (1) predicted that North American commercial aviation would reach 94% of the 2019 passenger traffic volume by year-end 2022 and reach 102% by year-end 2023.  Further, at that time the USA and Mexico were already near the 2022 forecast but Canada was severely lagging.  That situation has now improved considerably.

As reported regularly in the media, Canada’s path to aviation recovery in 2022 has been torturous. This includes world record setting delays at Pearson airport, staffing shortages and countless complaints from disrupted travelers.  Thankfully, full recovery is in sight.  For all of North America, 2023 aviation traffic should be exactly as IATA forecasted!

Let’s be honest though. For Canada, the 2022 recovery has been painful.  Canadian aviation will not reach 94% of the 2019 total commercial passenger traffic by year-end 2022.

The following chart compares the 2019 and 2022 year-to-date CATSA Canada (2) data for passengers going through airport screening per day at Canada’s eight major international airports (3).


The difference in passenger traffic in Q1, 2022 through Q3, 2022 is obvious. The shortfall in traffic can be directly tied to retention of the COVID protocols established by the Federal Government, and short staffing both by airlines, airport authorities and the Transport Canada security screening forces.  Through this period, some of Canada’s premier airports were considered as the worst in the world for on-time performance.  Traffic at these eight airports were suppressed by COVID protocols including the mandatory use of the ArriveCan app. For many, Canadian airports were to be avoided if at all possible.  Yet, traffic in the July through September period grew substantially in Canada.

On October 1, 2022, all federal COVID protocols for our airports were revoked.  Unfortunately, full year passenger traffic will not reach the IATA 94% forecast.  The remaining one quarter of 2022, a period of historically lower air travel, does not provide enough time to compensate for the low passenger traffic in the previous three quarters.

The best that can be expected is that the eight Canadian major international airports will end 2022 at around 75% of the 2019 total commercial passenger traffic performance.

Now for the good news – CONVERGENCE!  As you can see from the chart, daily passenger traffic has increased rapidly, from the mid-30% range in January 2022, to 83% in July, 88% in August and 86% in September.  On a daily basis, that’s within striking distance of IATA 94% value, and very close to the historical Q4 air traffic trend line.

Canadian aviation will start 2023 at or close to the 2019 year-end traffic level and, importantly, will be well positioned to reach IATA’s 102% North American forecast in 2023.

Canadian commercial aviation will fully recover in 2023!

As noted in previous postings, aviation in Canada is resilient.  The COVID pandemic changed the nature of air travel globally, but it will not diminish it.

With the demonstrated recovery and the return to continuous annual growth, Pickering Airport will still be required in the late-2020s, or worst case by the early to mid-2030s timeframe.

My next update will be in Q1, 2023 once full-year 2022 information is available.



  1. IATA media release #10 “Air Passenger Numbers to Recover in 2024”, 1 March 2022
  2. CATSA Data link: Screened passenger data | CATSA | ACSTA (catsa-acsta.gc.ca)
  3. Canada’s eight biggest airports are Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto Pearson, Montreal-Trudeau, Halifax, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver.


5 thoughts on “On-Track for Full Aviation Recovery in 2023

  1. Given your thesis ( and Durham region’s) is Toronto overload (capacity constraints) equals building Pickering proposed I am surprised you would reference passenger loads. That data reference has long departed. And given the sixth runway is still “Not Planned” as in.. beyond the current 20 year plan, what is your estimate of the date of Total Airport 6 runway capacity (this runway is in the strategic plan as noted in the 2017 master plan)? This would of necessity include your view of the 6 th runway build date. Please cite any ref. material you may have.

  2. Hi Ivan, this post was about passenger numbers but at least you are consistent with your runway focus. But we all know that Runways are the least constrictive part of Pearson’s capacity crunch, the issue is the airports footprint which can’t be easily expanded. Unless additional land is expropriated a 6th runway at Pearson would not be able to add much to the IFR traffic capacity due to proximity to other runways ( see GTAA notes and our post on this from years ago).

    YYZ tops out at 65 million passengers a year ( GTAA master plan ) unless it has a major renovations to its terminal space, additional gates above the current max plan and external transportation hub ( road &rail). Working conditions are not ideal and getting worse as the congestion builds so the pressure to cap daily loads will come from both Union and management.

    LaGuardia airport faced similar capacity issues but luckily for New York they had five other jet airports within an hours drive to shuffle traffic to while they undertook a massive rebuild. The airport rebuild itself cost $8 billion with part of that coming from tax payers. New York’s road and rail restructuring around the airport will eventually bring that to $25 billion in the coming years, much of it public money.

    For Pearson and the Greater Toronto area, Pickering Airport is a dream come true. An well planned airport ready to be built with private financing.

    With a logistics crunch underway on the cargo side and air Travel set to double in the next twenty years ( and hit net zero emissions) building an air and road logistics hub, utility and passenger Airport on the Pickering lands is a no brainer.

  3. “Unless additional land is expropriated a 6th runway at Pearson would not be able to add much to the IFR traffic capacity due to proximity to other runways ( see GTAA notes and our post on this from years ago).”
    Ted please don’t quote yourself as a source.
    The 6th runway has been planned since GTAA assumed the airport, it is environmentally approved and the plan is diagramed in the NASPL. A gov. of Canada Plan. It is also referenced in the GTAA 2008 and 2017 master plans.
    YYZ does not top out at 65 Million Pax. That is a misunderstanding. Ref please.
    GTAA project an ~doubling of its Gates by 2037 with no projection of a 6th runway requirement. See GTAA 2017 master plan.
    The current annual limit of movements is ~ 900,000, a sixth runway will take that to just over 1,000,000. Current GTAA stated limit on a twinned runway is ~90 movements hr. Therefore E/W capacity limit is (146 +56), and with a 6th runway 180 (90 +90). These (all) are linear projection, and in time, highly conservative. Projected time frame is 60 years from 6th runway build……. beyond the next century.
    Current top number of movements precovid ~478,000.
    As to the point concerning passenger accounting you should note from GTAA numbers that commercial aircraft passenger loads CYYZ are increasing faster than the long term rate of population growth . AKA Capacity constraints were decreasing Pre COVID.
    Something GTAA have failed to note.
    Capacity is a stated limit in the GTAA ground lease, and GTAA with TC endorsed these calculations, that I repeat. It/they is/are not mine. Population has no meaning in this calculus. It is a false and discredited reference.

    1. Ivan, this is Mark (the site moderator) and I posted the previous comment not Ted, and the appropriate place for your runway comments and math would be here:


      This is back in January in 2018 where we discussed the value of the 6th runway and the GTAAs statement that it would add only add 12 movements an hour under IFR conditions.

      Unless you have a magic wand to revoke the noise abatement procedures, wake turbulences safety standards, night-time curfew and weather limitations, I would advise you to listen to the GTAA expert assessment on current and future capacity.

  4. Re: Listen to the experts re Pickering.
    Sorry Mark (not Ted 😉 ). You are of course referring to the folks who brought us Pickering in the first place with its 24,000‘ and 18,000’ runways.

    Who does that?

    And, latterly in 2008 they brought us the 2013-2023 absolute Capacity window for Toronto
    [see Chapt. 15 of that 20 Master plan]. It has been so completely blown.
    Please also consider….. if 5 years becomes 30+ what does 10 years become. Answer No Pickering before 2100.

    The numbers you refer to in your link are incorrect. You appear to misunderstand.

    The actual numbers are 56 and 75. These numbers reduce to those you provide in IMC conditions which occurs only 14 % of the time. All scheduled airline operations are conducted under IFR rules. The GTAA authors and you appear to have conflated the terms. Why would you use them?

    Additionally you should note in the 2017 Master plan this “75” is later updated to “almost 90”, (and is referred to in KPMG as 86 as I recall) and given the rates of growth and technology should surpass 90 by yr. 2037…. Hence the numbers I used previously. [90 +90] vs [90+56]

    You are correct in suggesting a runway in Pickering would provide more capacity than a runway (pairing) of Toronto 5/23. However the ancillary costs of all the associated infrastructure for such a runway in Pickering are not considered and would exceed the cost of the actual runway build…. But you know that. (Sydney AUS 1 runway 5 billion $ 10 years ago.)

    The issue of the capacity calculations and the sequence of events including the 6th runway leading to Pickering are set by contract and approved Master plans along with the NASPL and Transport Canada.

    Hillary Marshall has no expertise on these issues and is no longer at the GTAA.

    GTAA CEO Howard Eng does. I suggest you listen to his remarks at the GTAA 2015 annual general meeting “Onward and Upward” on Youtube at the 1hr 10 minute mark.

    “Noise abatement procedures, wake turbulences safety standards, night-time curfew and weather limitations” etc are baked into the runway capacity numbers and calculations.

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