The fact that Toronto is the largest Canadian international air passenger gateway has always been important for our visitor economy. Toronto Pearson International Airport is the largest and busiest airport in Canada and the second-busiest airport in North America.

In 2020 global commercial air traffic plummeted as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold. Many countries have not yet lifted travel restrictions and some are even imposing new ones. We were curious and looked at the current number of the U.S. destinations with direct flights to Toronto to see the level of service from our key U.S. markets.

In November 2021, there was non-stop service to 34 U.S. airports. This is roughly two thirds of the source markets with service to Toronto  relative to the same month in 2019. With U.S. visitor arrivals to Toronto still down more than 80% compared with 2019, it’s not only the number of airports with direct service that was reduced. The number of weekly non-stop frequencies per direction (i.e. average of arrivals and departures) is slowly recovering, and we are now back at 50% compared to pre-pandemic.

If we look at the individual destinations from our key markets, there are some interesting changes.

New York (all airports) is currently connected at 63% of frequency compared to the same month in 2019. The frequency from New York’s LaGuardia airport has returned to almost 70%, and  the frequency from Newark Liberty International airport has also resumed close to 80%.  Flights from JFK, however, have not yet resumed.

If we look at Washington DC, the situation is similar. The frequency from all airports combined is at 51% compared to November 2019. Dulles International Airport is at 82% frequency relative to 2019, Ronald Reagan airport is at 52% and there are no flights from Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. In 2019, there was an average of 20.5 flights (arrivals and departures) from this airport. The frequency between Chicago and Toronto is slightly below 50%. 

Some U.S. cities remain without direct service to Toronto as those routes have not resumed at all. There is currently no direct service  from a number of U.S. airports, such as Cincinnati, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Kansas City, Memphis, San Diego and Salt Lake City - all of which had at least 7 weekly flights prior to the pandemic (and in some cases much more). There is also some reason for cautious optimism, as surprisingly there are flights to new destinations, including Orlando and Phoenix. 

Canada’s reopening to vaccinated international travellers earlier this fall should also contribute to increased global air travel. Leisure trips are clearly fueling the early stages of recovery, since business travel will take longer to fully resume.

It is important to note that any forward-looking capacity figures should be treated with extreme caution, since scheduled capacity/frequencies are progressively reduced from week to week until the week of operation, based on demand. At this point, 48% of the U.S. travellers feel comfortable flying in an airplane, but only 33% feel safe to travel outside the U.S.