Topic: Night Flights

Toronto Pearson's Night Flight Restriction Program is an important element of our overall Noise Management Program. It is a budget set by Transport Canada and caps the number of flights that are allowed to operate during the nighttime hours. Toronto Pearson is the only airport in Canada with a budget.

On December 22, 2011, Toronto Pearson submitted a request to Transport Canada for a modest increase to the number of flights allowed to fly at night. In 2013, Transport Canada provided their approval.

Proposal and Approval Documents

Supporting materials

Our night flights story

Everyday we have a limited number of night flights that takeoff and land at Toronto Pearson between the hours of 12:30 am and 6:30 am. In 2011, there were approximately 1,100 flights taking off and landing at the airport each day. Of those, approximately 36 (or 3 per cent) were night flights.

Not only are night flights critical in helping travellers reach their destinations and get home again, they also ensure important goods and services are delivered on time – and that’s before we take into account uncontrollable situations, such as inclement weather, Medevac landings and police operations. They are also required to serve the ever evolving and changing travel requirements of our Canadian and global guests.

The need for night flights

Year-after-year our region is growing and becoming more global in nature. This is reflected in the very fabric of our region; people who were once from a myriad of cultures and nations across the globe are now our neighbours, classmates, colleagues, business partners and friends.

As a result, we are seeing an increase in air traffic. It’s our responsibility to do everything we can to accommodate this demand for aviation services and keep our economy moving.

To give you an idea of how much increase in demand we’re facing, consider this:

  • 2010: the total number of aircraft taking off and landing at Toronto Pearson increased by 2.7% on the previous year to 418,000.
  • 2018: the total number of operations increased to 465,400, and we expect to see this number go up even more.

So why do planes need to arrive and depart at night? Quite simply, as our world becomes more connected, there’s a greater demand for flights to take off and land with travellers and goods between 12:30 am and 6:30 am.

The driving factors behind this demand include:

  • The needs of Greater Toronto Area's (GTA) ethnically diverse population and the growing demand for connections with emerging markets.
  • The size of the GTA, which is growing and getting stronger.
  • New aircraft technologies have transformed one-stop journeys into non-stop flights and are arriving at different hours, changing how people and goods are moving around the globe.
  • The demand for sun destination travel.
  • Partnerships and alliances between air carriers are changing flight and connection options. We’re proud that more travellers and airlines are choosing Toronto Pearson. And we remain dedicated to meeting that growing demand while still being a good neighbour by working to engage and support our surrounding communities.

Managing night flights

The number of night flights we’re able to offer is limited – and this is something Toronto Pearson supports.

The number of flights permitted each year is controlled by an arrangement with Transport Canada, the department within the Canadian government responsible for developing polices and services for transportation in this country. This limit is known as "the budget."

The night flight "budget" is linked to the number of passengers who travel through the airport in a given year. The night flight year runs from November 1 to October 31.

At the beginning of each night flight year we estimate how many passengers we expect to travel through the airport. The number of night flights that are allowed to takeoff and land in a year is increased by the percentage growth in passengers; for example, if passengers grow by 5 per cent, then the budget grows by 5 per cent.

This means that, on average, our budget for night flights gradually increases each year as we see more and more people travelling through Toronto Pearson.

We also reserve approximately 20 per cent of our budgeted flights to allow for situations outside of our control, such as:

  • Weather delays
  • Medevac flights
  • Military and police operations

Toronto Pearson supports the use of a measurable nighttime budget management system. We believe that having a cap on the number of flights at night is a balanced and responsible approach to serving the demand for aviation services, and respects the fact that night flights may also impact our neighbours.

We work diligently to keep our operations within the budget, though this has meant, we have had to turn away business that would otherwise economically benefit the GTA, as well as potentially limiting the number of connections for business and leisure travellers.

Managing noise

Toronto Pearson has a number of rules and procedures specific to our airport to minimize our impact on our neighbours, with some measures specific to night operations.

For example, we use a nighttime preferential runway system from 12:00 am to 6:30 am that prioritizes the use of runways so that planes fly over the fewest number of residential neighbourhoods. Use of these runways can vary based on wind and weather conditions, construction or other special requirements.

Also, only the quietest aircraft are allowed to operate in the nighttime hours at Toronto Pearson.

To learn more about our noise management activities, please visit our Noise Management page.