Record-breaking summer at Toronto Pearson signals new era as key North American international airport

Record-breaking summer at Toronto Pearson signals new era as key North American international airport

The FINANCIAL -- Toronto Pearson has completed a record-breaking summer travel season with nearly 9.6 million passengers travelling through the airport between Canada Day and Labour Day. The peak days of August 12 and August 19 saw almost 150,000 passengers per day.

The increase in passenger traffic reflects Toronto Pearson’s role as one of the top 40 international airports in the world, connecting people to from around the world. In the first half of 2016, passenger numbers increased by 5.9 per cent, compared to the first half of 2015. Of this, nearly 30 per cent were passengers connecting through Toronto Pearson to other destinations, according to Toronto Pearson.

Connecting passenger traffic has become an important component of the airport’s overall traffic. Toronto Pearson has become the fourth-busiest port of entry into the United States, among North American airports, with 5.6 million passengers entering the U.S. annually.

The top five countries this summer, in terms of available seats to and from Toronto Pearson, were the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Germany and the Netherlands.

“Toronto Pearson’s strong 2016 summer growth is unprecedented in the history of our airport,” said Howard Eng, President and CEO of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA). “This increase is indicative of the important role our airport plays in connecting Canada, and increasingly all of North America, to the global economy. Today, passengers can reach more than 65 per cent of the world’s economies through daily, non-stop flights from Toronto Pearson. That connectivity gives our region a competitive advantage over those without this type of direct linkage to international markets, and it supports the Government of Canada’s trade agenda.”

The economic benefits associated with Toronto Pearson’s passenger growth can be seen in the economic benefits accrued to the region, and also in the company’s financial strength. A recently updated study on the economic impact associated with Toronto Pearson found that the number of jobs directly attached to the airport has grown from 40,000 to 49,000 since 2010. In total, there are nearly 300,000 jobs directly and indirectly attached to the airport around the region, and 300,000 jobs located in the airport employment zone around Toronto Pearson, making it the second-largest employment zone in the country.

The GTAA has focused on ensuring the long-term financial sustainability of the airport by growing non-aeronautical revenue, paying down debt, and investing in infrastructure to support its growth. Non-aeronautical revenue, which is revenue generated from sources other than passenger and landing fees, grew 6.2 per cent in the first half of 2016. In 2015, 25 new retail, food and beverage locations were opened at Toronto Pearson, including The Hearth by Chef Lynn Crawford, LEE Kitchen by Master Chef Susur Lee and Caplansky's Deli.

Additionally, the GTAA has maintained a focus on paying down debt, and conservatively investing in growth. As a result, both Moody’s and S&P Global have upgraded their ratings of the GTAA from “A1” to “Aa3” and from “A” to “A+”, respectively, based on continued strong passenger and financial performance. These upgrades reflect the strong financial results of the GTAA, a reduced corporate debt burden and Toronto Pearson’s strength as an origin and destination airport – meaning that nearly 70 per cent of travellers are starting or ending their journey at the airport.

"As our busiest season draws to a close, I would like to commend everyone working at Toronto Pearson for their dedication to keeping passengers, planes, bags and cargo moving through the airport this summer,” said Howard Eng. “The passenger volume that we saw over the summer was unprecedented in Canada. These numbers bring challenges, particularly at peak periods of the day, and they also serve as a reminder that all of the companies and agencies who contribute to the passenger experience must be resourced appropriately to meet the needs of travellers from around the world."