Vancouver International Airport is no longer ranked as North America's best airport

Jun 22 2022, 12:51 am

Vancouver International Airport’s (YVR) long continuous streak of being named by Skytrax as North America’s best airport has come to an end.

Now filling YVR’s usual first place for the ranking in 2022 is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

Prior to this year, Skytrax ranked YVR as North America’s best airport for 12 consecutive years.

The annual Skytrax rankings are the most prestigious and recognized awards in the global aviation industry, with survey-based rankings of the world’s best international airports and best regional international airports, as well as rankings of airlines, airline lounges, airport hotels, airport dining, airport shopping, and airport staff. The 2022 awards were announced last week at Skytrax’s industry event in Paris.

In the late 2000s and first half of the 2010s, YVR was ranked among the top 10 airports around the world — not just in North America — competing with the likes of Singaporeā€™s Changi Airport and the Hong Kong International Airport.

An immense rise in global competition, however, from new and improved airports pushed YVR out of the top 10 global rankings starting in 2015, and now the same downward effect is apparent in the top 10 North American ranking.

YVR’s global best airport ranking has seen a steady downward trend for over a decade: ninth in 2012, eighth in 2013, ninth in 2014, 11th in 2015, 14th in 2016, 13th in 2017, 14th in 2018, 17th in 2019, 13th in 2020, 24th in 2021, and 28th in 2022.

SEA was ranked 53rd globally in 2021. In 2022, it soared upwards all the way to 27th, just ahead of YVR. A huge jump of 26 spots.

So what changed at SEA between 2021 and 2022?

Earlier this spring, SEA opened a massive $1.2 billion expansion that not only modernized its amenities and facilities, but also greatly expanded capacity — specifically international capacity, and the ability to more swiftly process passengers connecting between international flights and SEA’s much larger domestic business. Prior to the pandemic, YVR officials stated SEA’s terminal expansion and improvement projects were the greatest threat to YVR’s position as the predominant TransPacific hub in the Pacific Northwest.

seattle-tacoma international airport international arrivals facility iaf

The 2022-built International Arrivals Facility at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. (Port of Seattle)

seattle-tacoma international airport international arrivals facility iaf

The 2022-built International Arrivals Facility at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. (Port of Seattle)

seattle-tacoma international airport international arrivals facility iaf

The 2022-built International Arrivals Facility at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. (Port of Seattle)

seattle-tacoma international airport sea-tac c concourse expansion

Artistic rendering of the C Concourse Expansion project at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. It will reach completion in 2027. (Port of Seattle)

Although SEA is much larger than YVR and sees more overall passengers, YVR has significantly larger international passenger volumes — not including YVR’s large US transborder passenger volumes.

And other major projects for SEA have yet to come, including a $400 million expansion that will begin major construction in 2023 for a completion in 2027.

YVR recently saw major improvements, too. Earlier this month, it opened its $300 million expansion of the Pier D wing international terminal building, which spans 300,000 sq ft of floor area with eight additional gates (including four bus gates), unique amenity spaces including an enclosed outdoor experience centrepiece, and digital art. Retail and dining options in the expanded Pier D will open in 2023.

While the Pier D expansion on its own is extremely impressive, it pales in comparison to SEA’s ongoing overall multi-phase expansion.

But the Pier D expansion will likely provide YVR with some new positive momentum that will improve its Skytrax ranking for 2023, given that it was not a considered factor for the 2022 ranking, as the expansion opened just this month.

vancouver international airport yvr pier d expansion

The atrium area of the Pier D expansion of Vancouver International Airport. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

vancouver international airport yvr pier d expansion

The enclosed outdoor space in the atrium of the Pier D expansion of Vancouver International Airport. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

vancouver international airport yvr pier d expansion

The “dive under the sea” entrance into the bus gates of the Pier D expansion of Vancouver International Airport. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

vancouver international airport yvr pier d expansion

Future restaurant and tide pool simulation at the Pier D expansion of Vancouver International Airport. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

Prior to the pandemic, YVR was beginning to turn its attention to a major additional terminal building expansion — the creation of Pier F, extending immediately east of the existing US transborder terminal’s check-in area. This was previously slated to be a project for the early-to-mid 2020s under YVR’s pre-pandemic $9-billion expansion and improvement strategy over 20 years, which is now suspended indefinitely due to the pandemic.

It remains to be seen how the recent impacts of lengthy CATSA security wait times — which are under the control of the federal government, not YVR — and other pandemic-induced workforce shortages could impact YVR and other Canadian airports in 2023’s Skytrax rankings.

With all that said, Skytrax still ranks Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel highly in its list of the world’s best airport hotels, with a fifth place global airport hotel ranking, and another consecutive first place North American airport hotel ranking. The hotel is attached to YVR’s US transborder terminal.

Toronto Pearson International Airport’s (YYZ) global best airport ranking also dropped, falling from 38th in 2021 to 43rd in 2022, although YYZ has fluctuated between the mid 40s and as low as 50th in recent years. YYZ is ranked as North America’s sixth best airport in 2022.

In 2022, Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport (YUL) is North America’s 10th best airport and 66th best globally — down from 63rd globally in 2021.

Top 10 airports in North America 2022: Skytrax

  1. Seattle-Tacoma
  2. Vancouver
  3. Houston Hobby
  4. Houston George Bush
  5. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky
  6. Toronto Pearson
  7. Denver
  8. Atlanta
  9. San Francisco
  10. Montreal

Top 10 airports in the world 2022: Skytrax

  1. Doha Hamad
  2. Tokyo Haneda
  3. Singapore Changi
  4. Tokyo Narita
  5. Seoul Incheon
  6. Paris Charles De Gaulle
  7. Munich
  8. Istanbul
  9. Zurich
  10. Kansai

Top 10 airports in the world 2014: Skytrax

  1. Singapore Changi
  2. Seoul Incheon
  3. Munich
  4. Hong Kong
  5. Amsterdam Schiphol
  6. Tokyo Haneda
  7. Beijing Capital
  8. Zurich
  9. Vancouver
  10. London Heathrow
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