Vancouver International Airport’s (YVR) latest statistics show it saw a 48% year-over-year decline in passenger volumes for March 2020, when the pandemic reached North America. There were 1.1 million passengers — down from 2.13 million during the same month in 2019.
Passenger volumes began falling early in the month, but the drop was pronounced and sudden towards the end of the second week.
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Comparatively, the year-over-year decrease for February was just 3%, with YVR recording 2.02 million passengers.
The tumble in March was significant across the board for all of the airport’s travel sectors:
- 2019: 1,001,618
- 2020: 564,362 (-43.7%)
- US transborder:
- 2019: 551,037
- 2020: 243,270 (-55.9%)
- Asia Pacific:
- 2019: 373,791
- 2020: 168,827 (-54.8%)
- 2019: 87,151
- 2020: 52,432 (-39.8%)
- 2019: 119,346
- 2020: 74,363 (-37.7%)
- Month total:
- 2019: 2,132,943
- 2020: 1,103,254 (-48.3%)
The largest cumulative year-to-date regional decline was Asia Pacific, where there was a 25.9% drop in passengers as a result of the COVID-19 travel concerns that began earlier in the year, and the lingering impacts of the Hong Kong protests and the China trade war.
Overall year-to-date traffic at YVR as of the end of March reached a total of 4.94 million passengers, down 18% from 2019’s figure of 6.03 million.
On Monday, the airport authority announced its forecast of between eight million and 15 million annual passengers over the next three years — a decrease from 2019’s record of 26.4 million passengers. With depressed air traffic volumes expected for the foreseeable future, YVR is moving to layoff 25% of its workforce of about 550 people.
As for aircraft movements on the runway, there was a 26% year-over-year drop in March, with jets dropping by 23.5% from 13,357 to 10,215, and turbo props falling by 27.7% from 9,797 to 7,088.
For non-runway traffic, which is mainly local travel, float plane movements from YVR’s South Terminal saw a 41% year-over-year drop over the month — from 2,254 in 2019 to 1,330 in 2020. Helicopter movements fell by 31.8% from 782 to 533 over the same period.
The drop in aircraft movements was also reflected in the volume of cargo that moved through the airport. A total of 16,572 tonnes passed through YVR in March, down by 32.8% compared to the 24,645 tonnes over the same period in 2019.
Total arrivals and departures for the month fell by 27% from 26,767 in 2019 to 19,521 in 2020.
The forthcoming data for April’s volumes — the first full month of COVID-19’s intense impacts on air travel — are expected to be markedly worse. YVR earlier reported it saw an average of just 3,000 daily passengers at the start of April, which is about 3% of its normal volumes of 78,000 passengers per day.
According to global air travel data firm OAG, the falling capacity changes to the commercial airline industry bottomed out last week, the 17th week of the pandemic. There was a 2% increase in weekly global capacity with 29.8 million scheduled seats — a 600,000-seat increase over the previous week, with growth in eight of the 17 regional markets analyzed.
But this all amounts to about 80 million fewer seats than what was operated in the same week in 2019.