Passenger air travel and jet fuel demand increasing steadily but remain below 2019 levels: CER

Trends in jet fuel use are similar to passenger travel, with a sharp drop in 2020, and a strong recovery beginning mid-2021.

In 2022 and 2023, jet fuel demand has grown relatively quickly alongside a recovery in passenger air travel. Air Canada photo.

This article was published by the Canada Energy Regulator on March 20, 2024.

Energy use in Canada is rebounding from the 2020 drop because of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.(1) Compared to other fuels, jet fuel experienced the largest decline in 2020 and was relatively slower to recover in 2021. In 2022 and 2023, however, jet fuel demand has grown relatively quickly alongside a recovery in passenger air travel.

The number of air passengers, which ranged from 6.1 to 8.5 million per month in 2018 and 2019, dropped to less than 1 million for most months between April 2020 and June 2021. Travel increased significantly in 2022, especially in the latter half of the year, but remained about 30 per cent lower than 2019 levels. The gap between current and pre-pandemic travel continued to narrow throughout 2023, but the number of air passengers is approximately 7 per cent lower than in 2019.(2) Figure 1 illustrates jet fuel use and the number of passengers carried on Canada’s major airlines(3) from 2018 to 2023.

Figure 1: Jet fuel used, and number of passengers carried, on Canada’s major airlines, 2018 to 2023

Source: Statistics Canada Table 23-10-0079-01, Operating and financial statistics for major Canadian airlines
Description: This line chart shows monthly trends in passenger travel on Canada’s major airlines, compared to jet fuel use for those airlines, from January 2018 to November 2023. Both of these variables show similar trends, with a dramatic drop in April 2020, continued low levels until mid-2021, and then a gradual increase. Passengers dropped relatively more, and recovered relatively faster, than fuel use. Both passengers and fuel use are approaching 2019 levels but remain lower in 2023.  To see an animated version of this graph, click here.

Trends in jet fuel use are similar to passenger travel, with a sharp drop in 2020, and a strong recovery beginning mid-2021. However, the changes in jet fuel and passenger travel are not one-to-one. In 2020, jet fuel use did not decline as much as passenger travel. This is because the passenger load factor(4), a measurement of how full planes are, declined significantly with the pandemic, averaging 84 per cent in 2019 to 54 per cent in 2020. This means that the planes were emptier in 2020, so relatively more jet fuel was used per passenger than in previous years. In 2023, jet-fuel use is 13 per cent lower than 2019 levels, and the average load-factor is 86 per cent.

Over the long term, petroleum-based jet-fuel could become further decoupled from air travel, especially as Canada progresses towards net-zero. Canada’s Aviation Climate Action Plan, 2022-2030(5) outlines a hypothetical pathway for decarbonizing aviation: improved energy efficiency of planes, the use of sustainable aviation fuel, operation improvements, advanced aircraft technologies, and out-of-sector reductions (such as carbon removal offsets(6)) to make up for any remaining petroleum-based jet-fuel. The net-zero scenarios in Canada’s Energy Future 2023 show similar trends. In 2050 there is some petroleum-based aviation fuel(7) used in the net-zero scenarios, but about 75 per cent less than in 2019.

Facebook Comments

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*