Canadian airport delays, cancellations continue to decline, says Transport Canada

TORONTO, ON - JULY 22  - Passengers line up waiting at Gates F.  Passengers in Toronto Pearson International Airport Terminal One early in the morning, passengers that arrive early are instructed to wait at pillars 14 and 15 for their flights to be called before they go to Gate F for security and customs.  in Toronto. July 22, 2022.        (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Canadian airports continue to improve service levels as the summer travel season begins to wind down. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Canadian airports continue to improve service levels as the summer travel season begins to wind down, with cancellations and delays declining at the country's busiest airports.

Transport Canada says that between Aug. 15 and Aug. 21, 168,812 passengers departed all Canadian airports, representing 83 per cent of pre-pandemic capacity levels.

At Canada's busiest airports – Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary – 86 per cent of all flights left on time or within an hour of their scheduled departure in that week, an improvement from 75 per cent in the first week of July. During the same week in 2019, before the pandemic struck, 92 per cent of flights were on time or left within the hour, although capacity levels were higher.

Two per cent of scheduled flights at the country's busiest airports were cancelled in the third week of August, an improvement from 5 per cent of all flights in July. While that cancellation level is the same as in 2019, capacity levels in 2022 are still below pre-pandemic activity at Canadian airports. Both Air Canada and WestJet cut flights from their schedules in July and August and flew fewer passengers than in 2019.

While flight cancellations and delays improved from earlier this summer, the number of flights where passengers were held on board because of a lack of capacity in the airports crept up slightly. For the third week of August, two per cent – or 47 international flights – were held, all of those at Toronto's Pearson International Airport. Although that is down significantly from the peak when 373 flights were held in the first week of May, it is above the four-week rolling average at Pearson Airport of 37 flights held per week.

A surge in travel demand this summer resulted in an increase in flight delays and cancellations, as well as chaos at some of the country's biggest airports.

But airlines say the situation is improving. Air Canada said last week that it had improved its service levels through the summer, reducing delays and cancellations and bringing its baggage mishandling rate back to 2019 levels. Amos Kazzaz, the airline's chief financial officer, told attendees at a Raymond James conference this week that he expects the improvements to continue for the remainder of the year.

"We certainly don't expect to see this sort of level of disruption into 2023," Kazzaz said.

"I think it will continue to improve."

Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.

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