Canadian travel, flights to the U.S. decrease


A decline in travel by Canadians to the U.S. has been accompanied in recent months by several announcements of cuts in U.S. airline service to Canadian destinations.

Yet data from flight-tracking website and app FlightAware suggest that despite appearances, overall flight connectivity between the U.S. and Canada has declined only slightly in the past two years.

Hampered by the struggling Canadian dollar, just 4.4 million Canadians stayed at least one night in the U.S. during the first three months of 2016, according to Statistics Canada data cited in numerous Canadian media outlets, down 13% from the same period in 2015.

Meanwhile, this spring has seen several announced service drops to Canadian destinations by United and Delta. On May 24, Delta said that as of July 31 it would end its twice-daily flights from Minneapolis to Regina, Saskatchewan..

That move, coupled with United’s dropping service from Denver to Regina last year, has left Saskatchewan's second-largest city without service from a U.S. airline. Similarly, in April United announced plans to eliminate service between London, Ontario, and Chicago on July 30, leaving that airport without a U.S. carrier.

United is also ending service on July 1 between Edmonton, Alberta, and both Chicago and San Francisco. And the carrier ceased service to St. John’s, Newfoundland, in February. For United, those announcements are part of a trend. Over the past two years, the carrier has ended or announced the end of service to eight Canadian destinations, spokesman Jonathan Guerin said. United still flies into 11 Canadian airports.

“We are always reviewing the supply and the demand of the market,” Guerin said. “We make adjustments as needed.”

Guerin said that the weak Canadian dollar has played a role in diminished demand. It dipped from 94 cents to the U.S. dollar in July 2014 to as low as 68 cents this past January. As of last week it was trading at around 76 cents.

Another factor has been low oil prices. Struggles in the oil sector played a part in United’s ending service to St. John’s and the Alberta city of Fort McMurray, Guerin said.

Despite United’s moves, airline traffic between the U.S. and Canada has held nearly steady over the last two years, according to FlightAware.

As of June 1, airlines, including those from the U.S. and elsewhere, were servicing 159 U.S.-Canada city pairs. That’s down from a 26-month high of 199 in January 2015. Travel from Canada to the U.S. peaks in the winter, so seasonal comparisons are more relevant. This June’s count of 159 airport pairs is up from 157 last year and down from 169 in 2014, the FlightAware data shows.

The number of U.S.-Canada city pairs peaked for this year at 198. The number of monthly flights between the North American neighbors has also dipped just slightly in the past two years, from 40,938 in June 2014 to a scheduled 40,147 this June. 

Delta spokesman Anthony Black said in an email that the airline has actually increased service to Canada compared with three years ago. Delta plans to fly 182 peak-day Canada flights in July, compared with 178 in 2013, he said.


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