In the sixth part of its submission to the PortsToronto Proposed Environmental Assessment (EA) Study Design/Scope, CommunityAIR drew attention to passenger numbers that showed very little growth after 2012. The information was based on records of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (BBTCA) departing passengers who paid the Airport Improvement Fee.
The dataset covered 2012, 2013 and 2014. The source was PortsToronto’s annual Management Discussion and Analysis documents. The available figures were gross numbers and didn’t differentiate between destinations: Canadian or U.S. Nevertheless, they did show an airport that wasn’t increasing passenger numbers to any significant degree, certainly not enough to justify expansion based on the evidence.
Perhaps part of the problem for the BBTCA’s weakening numbers is the stranglehold one airline has on the airport’s slots (take-offs and landings) or traffic. After all, if the carrier with 85% of the slots isn’t increasing its passenger numbers the airport isn’t likely to. But how can we tell if the BBTCA’s weakening numbers are due to Porter?
Other Sources for BBTCA Passenger Numbers
While PortsToronto publishes BBTCA passenger numbers, Transport Canada leaves current data gathering up to Statistics Canada. However, when it comes to BBTCA, Statistics Canada isn’t much help. For the three tables in StatsCan’s Air Carrier Traffic at Canadian Airports, figures for passengers at BBTCA are found in only one of the three. This is in contrast to Toronto’s other airport, Pearson. Pearson is named on the same three tables and passenger figures are given for Pearson in all three. Why the discrepancy? Why do we have to look to the U.S. to get relevant Canadian passenger numbers for BBTCA?
The American government seems to either want to do a better job at compiling and disseminating transportation data or is less secretive than Transport Canada when it comes to airline statistics. The United States Department of Transportation publishes passenger numbers by airline, month and year and origin/destination. The department, however, puts a six-month delay in reporting non-U.S. airline passenger numbers.
Porter’s U.S. Numbers
The numbers in the table below are from the United States Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Statistics website. They represent the most recent passenger numbers published for Porter flights to the three destinations the airline has serviced since January 2012 when the company reached its present fleet size.
In each instance, passenger traffic built in January 2013 from the baseline 2012 numbers. Only Chicago’s numbers faltered from 2013 to 2014. However, the January 2015 numbers show a decline across the board. It’s no surprise then that the total number of passengers at the three airports has dropped from January 2014 to January 2015.
The Ghost of Numbers Future
While it may be argued that one month’s numbers is nothing to build a case on, it is the trend that they represent that is more telling. In each of Porter’s most important U.S. markets, the numbers have declined. While with a six-month delay in reporting, it remains to be seen if the trend continues. However, if the first quarter passenger numbers for Porter’s most established U.S. destinations continue the trend lower, the reason for Porter’s push for jets seems clear: Plan A isn’t working; Let’s try Plan B.