USA-Canada: The Second Busiest International Market Pre-COVID

In normal times, the US to Canada is the world’s second-largest international market. It had a whopping 39.6 million seats in 2019 – 108,000 a day. With leisure travel currently banned and the reopening date of July 21st likely to be pushed back again, we look at the October-December period. Some 182 non-stop routes across 10 airlines are scheduled, rising to 193 if Flair’s recent additions (which aren’t yet bookable) are included.

Air Canada Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner C-FGFZ
Air Canada plans to use 12 aircraft types between the US and Canada this October-December, including three widebodies: the B787-9 (seen here), B787-8, and A330-300. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Flair is coming

This examination follows Flair Airlines’ announcement last week that it’ll launch 21 routes from Canada to six US airports (Burbank, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Orlando Sanford, Palm Springs, and Phoenix-Mesa) from October. (The day after this article was published, Burbank is no longer referred to on its website.) However, no route is currently bookable, and the carrier is being sued by a shareholder over Boeing 737 MAX leases and expansion plans.

Flair Airlines' planned routes to the USA
This is what Flair Airlines expects to operate to the US this year. Note: Burbank is no longer referred to on its website. Of course, they’re driven by ‘snowbird’ demand. There’s a focus on lower-cost airports that are far less congested and delay-prone, reminiscent of the USA’s Skybus and new entrant Avelo.  Image: GCMap.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

57 US airports non-stop to Canada

Based on the latest data from July 12th, some 57 US airports will be connected non-stop to Canada this October to December, according to schedules information from data experts OAG. (This rises to 58 if Flair is included.) While New York La Guardia has the most capacity, Kansas City – with its sole link to Toronto with Air Canada – has the least.

Going the other way, 16 Canadian airports – from St John’s (Newfoundland and Labrador) to Victoria (British Columbia) – are connected non-stop to the US. (Rising to 18 if Flair is included.) Some 27 US states are due to served, with California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Illinois the top-five. Conversely, Wisconsin will have the least capacity.

United Airbus A319
San Francisco to Vancouver will have the most United capacity; it will be one of 26 routes for the carrier. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

10 airlines offering non-stop service

Some 10 airlines have bookable non-stop service between the two countries between October and December. Of course, it is mainly about Air Canada, which has a 45% share of scheduled capacity – more than twice as much as number-two, WestJet. The top airlines are:

  1. Air Canada
  2. WestJet
  3. Delta
  4. American
  5. United
  6. Porter
  7. Alaska
  8. Air Transat
  9. Swoop
  10. Flair

Air Canada’s US network comprises 104 routes, with six Canadian airports and 49 in the US. Obviously, its Toronto hub is all-important, with nearly six in ten transborder seats. The airline links Pearson with 45 airports, providing connectivity across Canada and (in normal times) to Europe and beyond.

Porter Dash-8
Porter will operate four routes from Toronto City: Boston; Chicago Midway; Newark; and Washington Dulles.
Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Plus Royal Jordanian from Montreal to Detroit

Less well known is Royal Jordanian’s one-stop service from Amman to Detroit via Montreal. This will operate twice-weekly (Mondays and Thursdays) in both directions using 270-seat Boeing 787-8s with 24 business seats and 247 in economy.

While the 530-mile route is exciting, Royal Jordanian doesn’t have fifth freedom traffic rights on it. This means it doesn’t have permission to carry passengers or cargo between Montreal and Detroit on a standalone basis. Instead, people will have to make do with Delta’s (up to) four-daily services to its second-largest hub.

Royal Jordanian Boeing 787
Royal Jordanian will fly Amman-Montreal-Detroit, but it will not have fifth freedom traffic rights. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

182 non-stop routes

Across all airlines, 182 non-stop routes are scheduled. (193 with Flair’s additions.) With 12 Canadian destinations, Orlando International has the most expansive network. However, Las Vegas isn’t far behind with nine. JetBlue is set to begin Boston and New York JFK to Vancouver in 2022.

The top-10 routes by total seats are led by New York La Guardia to Toronto. At the other extreme are Edmonton to Honolulu, Calgary-Kona, and Calgary-Lihue. WestJet will serve all three just before Christmas on a once-weekly basis using 174-seat Boeing 737 MAX 8s. Top routes include:

  1. New York La Guardia to Toronto
  2. Los Angeles-Vancouver
  3. Chicago O’Hare-Toronto
  4. Atlanta-Toronto
  5. Fort Lauderdale-Toronto
  6. Seattle-Vancouver
  7. Orlando-Toronto
  8. Los Angeles-Toronto
  9. Boston-Toronto
  10. San Francisco-Vancouver
WestJet B737-600
The B737-600 will play an important role between Pearson and La Guardia, the largest market between Canada and the US. Photo: Johnnyw3 via Wikimedia.

A day in the life: Pearson to La Guardia

The largest non-stop market is Toronto Pearson to La Guardia, a distance of some 357 miles. It is typically driven by business demand and onward connectivity. Air Canada, WestJet, Delta, and American will all serve it with up to 24 daily outbound flights. The day’s schedule for October 7th is as follows.

Departure time from Pearson to La GuardiaAirline Aircraft
06:30DeltaEmbraer 175
06:35AmericanEmbraer 145
07:05WestJetBoeing 737-600
08:30Air CanadaEmbraer 175
09:35DeltaEmbraer 175
09:35WestJetBoeing 737-600
10:00Air CanadaEmbraer 175
11:00DeltaEmbraer 175
12:00Air CanadaEmbraer 175
12:25WestJetBoeing 737-600
13:27AmericanEmbraer 145
14:20Air CanadaEmbraer 175
14:30DeltaEmbraer 175
14:35WestJetBoeing 737-600
15:03AmericanEmbraer 145
16:00Air CanadaEmbraer 175
16:35WestJetBoeing 737-600
16:50DeltaEmbraer 175
17:35WestJetBoeing 737-600
18:30Air CanadaEmbraer 175
19:30WestJetBoeing 737-700
19:44American Embraer 145
19:45DeltaEmbraer 175
20:25WestJetBoeing 737-600