Vancouver International Airport expecting drop in passenger traffic from coronavirus

Mar 4 2020, 5:31 pm

The travel industry continues to be hit hard by the threat of a global coronavirus pandemic, and Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is no exception.

At the moment, Vancouver Airport Authority is expecting a 3% to 5% reduction in its passenger traffic volumes throughout 2020. This translates to a decrease of between 790,000 and 1.3 million passengers compared to the record 26.4 million passengers clocked in 2019.

It will be the first time annual passenger traffic volumes at YVR will see negative growth since 2009, which was due to the financial crisis.

The number of Mainland China flights dropped by half in March 2020 from the plummet in air travel demand, and a similar fall is expected this month.

In 2019, Asia Pacific flights accounted for a significant chunk of YVR’s passenger volumes — about 4.59 million passengers. There are nine flights to Mainland China, not including the route to Hong Kong.

Air Canada continues to operate its daily flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong, although it has cancelled flights from Toronto due to low demand. Cathay Pacific also continues to fly at least once daily from Vancouver to Hong Kong.

However, if the forecast numbers hold, the total decrease in 2020 will only send YVR back to its annual volumes between 2017 and 2018 — around 25 million — after experiencing a rapid growth from 18.97 million passengers in 2013.

While record growth was recorded, the airport was already experiencing a slowdown in 2019 as a result of the Boeing 737 MAX grounding that began in March 2019, which significantly curbed the capacity of airlines around the world, with Air Canada being amongst the hardest hit. The political and social unrest in Hong Kong beginning in Summer 2019 cut down on passenger volumes from the autonomous Chinese city and accelerated Hong Kong Airlines’ decision to withdraw its YVR service.

“We are confident in the airport’s ability to weather the current economic environment. We have been through similar challenges in the past, including the global economic downturn in 2008 to 2009 and SARS in 2002 to 2003, and these experiences are reflected in our responsible approach to growth,” said Craig Richmond, the CEO of Vancouver Airport Authority, in an emailed statement to Daily Hive.

“Further, our strong financial position, diverse revenue streams and long-term perspective ensure that we will address the current industry challenges while continuing to plan for the future.”

In 2018, YVR recorded $565.1 million in revenues — up by about $35 million from the previous year — and recorded a $102-million surplus.

These revenues include $48 million from airline landing fees, $95.1 million from airline terminal fees, $143.5 million from retail and dining concessions, $37.9 million from car parking, and $38.7 million from rentals. The airport improvement fee (AIF) also collected $172.1 million in 2019.

There will likely be drops in these revenues this year as a result of the expected decrease in the number of aircraft movements and passenger volumes.

The AIF for travel outside BC was increased from $20 to $25 at the start of 2020 to help finance the airport’s $9.1-billion, 20-year expansion and improvement project.

YVR is still scheduled to open its Pier D international terminal building expansion this June.

As of today, close to two dozen confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported within Canada, including 13 in BC.

Vancouver International Airport Traffic History

  • 1992
    • Passengers: 9,935,285
    • Cargo (tonnes): 144,404
    • Aircraft Movements: 290,297
  • 1993
    • Passengers: 10,235,015
    • Cargo (tonnes): 151,467
    • Aircraft Movements: 289,371
  • 1994
    • Passengers: 10,830,796
    • Cargo (tonnes): 182,372
    • Aircraft Movements: 301,416
  • 1995
    • Passengers: 12,006,973
    • Cargo (tonnes): 214,472
    • Aircraft Movements: 311,829
  • 1996
    • Passengers: 14,037,174
    • Cargo (tonnes): 249,201
    • Aircraft Movements: 330,364
  • 1997
    • Passengers: 14,818,564
    • Cargo (tonnes): 260,773
    • Aircraft Movements: 343,068
  • 1998
    • Passengers: 15,508,109
    • Cargo (tonnes): 249,297
    • Aircraft Movements: 369,728
  • 1999
    • Passengers: 15,806,499
    • Cargo (tonnes): 269,129
    • Aircraft Movements: 367,249
  • 2000
    • Passengers: 16,032,531
    • Cargo (tonnes): 251,771
    • Aircraft Movements: 337,397
  • 2001
    • Passengers: 15,476,762
    • Cargo (tonnes): 228,694
    • Aircraft Movements: 312,078
  • 2002
    • Passengers: 14,877,536
    • Cargo (tonnes): 235,039
    • Aircraft Movements: 296,626
  • 2003
    • Passengers: 14,321,504
    • Cargo (tonnes): 214,882
    • Aircraft Movements: 290,382
  • 2004
    • Passengers: 15,725,694
    • Cargo (tonnes): 229,913
    • Aircraft Movements: 314,986
  • 2005
    • Passengers: 16,418,993
    • Cargo (tonnes): 223,678
    • Aircraft Movements: 322,949
  • 2006
    • Passengers: 16,922,226
    • Cargo (tonnes): 222,730
    • Aircraft Movements: 322,396
  • 2007
    • Passengers: 17,495,049
    • Cargo (tonnes): 226,233
    • Aircraft Movements: 328,008
  • 2008
    • Passengers: 17,852,459
    • Cargo (tonnes): 211,693
    • Aircraft Movements: 339,022
  • 2009
    • Passengers: 16,179,312
    • Cargo (tonnes): 197,490
    • Aircraft Movements: 314,437
  • 2010
    • Passengers: 16,778,774
    • Cargo (tonnes): 226,840
    • Aircraft Movements: 294,571
  • 2011
    • Passengers: 17,032,780
    • Cargo (tonnes): 223,878
    • Aircraft Movements: 296,942
  • 2012
    • Passengers: 17,596,901
    • Cargo (tonnes): 227,929
    • Aircraft Movements: 296,394
  • 2013
    • Passengers: 17,971,883
    • Cargo (tonnes): 228,263
    • Aircraft Movements: 300,454
  • 2014
    • Passengers: 19,358,203
    • Cargo (tonnes): 256,934
    • Aircraft Movements: 310,139
  • 2015
    • Passengers: 20,315,978
    • Cargo (tonnes): 271, 774
    • Aircraft Movements: 316,182
  • 2016
    • Passengers: 22,284,496
    • Cargo (tonnes): 281,018
    • Aircraft Movements: 281,018
  • 2017
    • Passengers: 24,166,122
    • Cargo (tonnes): 312,883
    • Aircraft Movements: 289,371
  • 2018
    • Passengers: 25,936,907
    • Cargo (tonnes): 338,182
    • Aircraft Movements: 295,870
  • 2019
    • Passengers: 26,395,197
    • Cargo (tonnes): 302,571
    • Aircraft Movements: 289,533