Waiting For A Plane XIII – Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport

On a Friday evening in November the place is almost deserted. This is nothing like the summer bustle I have seen before. I guess no-one travels this far from summer or maybe I should say this close to Christmas.


Spot the people! You would expect things to be busier on a Friday night, even in November.

There are 25 flights on the departures board. Ours is the last to leave. And then it’s 10 hours in the plane wishing I could sleep.

No problem finding a spot to sprawl out here. It won’t be like that when we get to Istanbul‎.

This airport is named after Canada’s 15th Prime Minister, which is rather ironic when you think of it. He wanted the place shut down and built Mirabel Airport, about two hours away, to become the air hub for Montreal. At the time Mirabel was the largest airport in the world, but people didn’t like it, and the plan failed. Now once again a Trudeau is Prime Minister, but I doubt he will try to close an airport that is now named after his father.

Trudeau senior was right in a way, the airport should have been closed down given the growth projections at the time. It wasn’t going to be able to handle the traffic and the location between two housing subdivisions was thought to be less than ideal – no room for expansion. Mirabel airport, with a four-lane highway built to serve it, now only handles freight traffic. The growth projections were wrong (arguably due to policies of Quebec’s separtist provincial government elected in 1976). Given how quiet the airport is on a Friday night in November it would seem that Trudeau Airport has no problem handling the remaining passenger traffic.

Experts can frequently be wrong, or, despite their expertise offer less than expert solutions. Mirabel Airport is a cautionary tale.

The experts were right that Dorval Airport, as Trudeau was then known, would not be able to handle the increase in air traffic. But their solution, to close it and build a new one in a less than convenient location failed to take human nature into account. We don’t like being inconvenienced. A lot of land was expropriated that the new airport, as it turned out, didn’t really need since it has never, and probably will never, been used to capacity. 

But what do I know? I’m no expert.  


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