Air transportation safety in Canada - statistics & facts
Canada’s large geographical size and proximity to the United States makes it one of the largest markets for air travel, despite its relatively small population. Air travel however is an inherently dangerous activity, creating a myriad safety issues that need to be constantly managed by airlines, airports and government authorities. Very broadly, air travel safety can be divided into two separate segments: airport security measures, designed to ensure that dangerous items or people do not enter aircraft, and therefore pose a danger to passengers and crew during the flight; and the various safety measures designed prevent aircraft accidents during flight, landing or take off.
In Canada, the responsibility for many airport security measures falls to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), a Crown corporation created in 2002 which is fully accountable to the Canadian Parliament. In particular, CATSA is responsible for security screening of passengers, baggage and non-passenger personnel permitted to enter restricted areas of Canadian airports. A majority of travelers seem to hold a positive opinion of CATSA’s efforts in this regard, with 83.7 percent of those surveyed in 2019 expressing a high level of confidence in security screening at Canadian airports. However there is a significant price tag attached, with capital expenditure on screening devices along reaching over 91 million Canadian dollars in 2019.
Regarding aircraft accidents, at the regional level North America had the third-highest number of commercial airline accidents in 2019. However, the accident rate in North America is below the global average, with these high numbers being a reflection of the size of the commercial air travel market in the region. These figures apply only to commercial transportation though; when accident figures are expanded to include other forms of flying, such as business travel or private flights, the numbers increase greatly, with the number of accidents in Canada alone being higher than the number of commercial airline accidents in North America as a whole. Sadly, these accidents have resulted in a number of fatalities. This discrepancy in accident figures demonstrates that flying is still an inherently dangerous activity, but that the safety measures put in place for commercial travel are effective, making commercial air travel a highly safe form of transportation.
Amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, countries and organizations began to implement precautionary measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 for a public purpose. Some of the preventive methods included imposing lockdowns or encouraging no travel unless necessary by governments. This had a hard impact not only on the aviation industry but also on the decision making for people to travel. In a recent survey, 72 percent of Canadians stated that they feel uncomfortable to fly under COVID-19 social distancing measures.
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Erick Burgueño Salas
Research expert covering climate change and the water industry