Porter, Air France lifting Ottawa airport passenger traffic back to pre-pandemic levels


Passenger volumes at the Ottawa International Airport are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels this year, led by new offerings from Porter Airlines and Air France, an airport official says.

Last year, almost 4.1 million passengers travelled through Ottawa’s airport, a 37 per cent increase from 2022. Despite that growth, numbers have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels, which saw more than 5.1 million passengers travelling through YOW in both 2018 and 2019. 

Exceptional growth by Porter to a number of ‘new for them’ destinations such as Vancouver and Edmonton in the west and various destinations in the U.S. utilizing their new Embraer E195-E2 jets, along with a great lineup of sunshine destinations with mainline and charter carriers, were contributing factors to our growth,” YOW spokesperson Krista Kealey told OBJ this week. 

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Domestic travel at YOW grew by 18 per cent in 2023, but flights to and from destinations outside of Canada saw the biggest bump. 

In 2022, only 93,000 passengers on flights between destinations outside of the U.S. and Canada came through Ottawa. The numbers were even worse in 2021, at the height of the pandemic, at 15,597 passengers. Last year saw nearly 317,000 international passengers through Ottawa, an increase of 240 per cent. 

Kealey said international growth was led by Air France, which introduced a new direct route to Paris in June.

Transborder travel between Canada and the United States also saw a spike of 202 per cent. The airport recorded over 576,000 passengers in 2023, compared to 190,000 in 2022. 

“We’re at about 80 per cent of pre-pandemic volumes, and tracking to reach our pre-pandemic peak of 5.1 million in 2024,” says Kealey. 

This year, Kealey said Air France is expected to boost the frequency of its Ottawa-Paris route from five times weekly to daily this summer, contributing to more growth. 

Porter Airlines, which Kealey called “YOW’s fastest growing carrier,” also intends to continue expanding its offerings throughout the year, she said. 

While leisure travel is recovering well at YOW, business travel continues to lag, particularly from the federal government. 

“This doesn’t just pertain to outbound travel by federal officials, but also to those willing to come to Ottawa-Gatineau for in-person meetings,” says Kealey. “The challenge persists, particularly when the individuals they wish to meet are frequently working from home.”

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