Montréal–Trudeau International Airport

Montréal–Trudeau International Airport, or YUL (also known as Montréal–Trudeau), is an international airport in Dorval, Quebec, Canada. It is the main airport serving Montréal, the adjacent regions in Quebec and Eastern Ontario, and the states of Vermont and northern New York in the US. YUL is also home to the corporate headquarters of Air Canada and is one of its hubs. The airport is owned by Transport Canada and is operated by Aéroports de Montréal. In 2021, there were 98,857 aircraft movements, and the airport served over 5 million passengers. There are three runways: 06L/24R, which is 11,000 by 200 feet (asphalt/concrete); 06R/24L, which is 9,600 by 200 feet (concrete); and 10/28, which is 7,000 by 200 feet (asphalt).

Airport history

YUL originated in the 1940s when the Doval Race Track was purchased as it was considered an ideal location for an airport due to its good weather conditions with a few foggy days. As such, the airport opened as Dorval Airport/Aéroport Dorval on September 1st, 1941. The airport originally had three paved runways. The airport grew rapidly and by the mid-1950s, was serving over a million passengers a year. In 1960, the airport was renamed the Montréal-Dorval International Airport, while in December of that year, a new $30 million terminal was inaugurated. It was to be the gateway to Canada for all of Europe and, at its peak, served over 2 million passengers a year. In 1968, the government of Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau (father of current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) predicted that the airport at Dorval would be heavily oversaturated by 1985, with over 20 million passengers annually. They constructed a new airport in Sainte-Scholastique (Montréal-Mirabel International Airport). As such, all international flights (excluding those to the U.S.) were to be transferred to the new airport in 1975. On November 29th, 1975, the new airport opened with an operations zone of 27 square miles, the largest airport in the world. However, in the 1980s, longer-range jets that did not need to refuel in Montréal before crossing the Atlantic went into effect, causing traffic at Mirabel to decrease. Furthermore, the city’s economic decline in the late 1970s and 80s also slowed traffic at the airport, with many international flights bypassing the city altogether. The airport at Mirabel was intended to replace the one at Dorval due to increased traffic, which never materialized. Furthermore, the airport at Dorval was closer to Downtown Montréal. This led all scheduled airline traffic to return to Dorval, while Mirabel closed in 2004 to passenger operations. It now operates as a racetrack while catering to private planes and providing helicopter service. All international flights returned to YUL in 1997, and all charter flights in 2004. This meant that different airports would no longer be used, which brought about an increase in passenger traffic, also because it became easier to connect through Montréal. On January 1st, 2004, the airport was renamed the Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport, but not without controversy. Quebec sovereignists opposed it became named for a staunch federalist such as the former prime minister. At the same time, aviation historians criticized the move, as Trudeau had been the biggest supporter of shutting Dorval Airport down. As such, many Montréalers still refer to the airport as “Dorval: or “Dorval Airport.” In February 2000, an extensive extension plan was announced to bring YUL up to par with other North American airports of its size. Primarily, there was a strong need to expand the terminal, as its capacity of 7 million passengers per year had been exceeded. As such, several new facilities were constructed, including a jetty for U.S. flights (U.S. Preclearance Terminal), an International Terminal, and an international arrivals complex. A Transborder Concourse with 18 gates opened in 2003, with the International Concourse opening the following year (with 11 gates). In 2005, a new customs hall and baggage claim area for non-domestic flights and an expanded parking garage were opened. In 2007, sections of the domestic area were renovated and expanded (with additional retail space). Finally, the airport was updated to accommodate the Airbus A380, with two air bridges to load and unload passengers on both decks of the aircraft simultaneously (there are now two more gates that can accommodate the aircraft, although the airport is currently not served by the A380). These renovations cost an estimated CAD 1.5 billion and brought the airport to a capacity of 15 million passengers annually. On August 19th, 2009, a four-star Marriott hotel opened at YUL, with an underground train station that was planned to connect the airport with downtown Montréal eventually. That same day, the newly expanded and refurbished transborder terminal opened, which increased the total area of the terminal to 195,060 square feet (from 100,320). The terminal also includes a new baggage sorting room, so luggage can be retrieved for secondary inspection by U.S. Customs officials if necessary. In July 2011, the $62 million construction of a two-phase expansion of the international terminal was announced. The first phase was completed on December 20th, 2012, with a new boarding lounge and gate, which can accommodate three Passenger Transfer Vehicles so that passengers can be transferred from the terminal to an aircraft parked on a remote stand nearby. The second phase opened on May 12th, 2016, with six new contact gates for wide-body jets (including those above two for the Airbus A380), thereby increasing the total amount of contact gates from 10 to 16. The expanded area features 20,000 square meters of open spaces, shops, restaurants, and a children’s play area. That same year, a new commercial area opened between gates 52 and 53, featuring many restaurants owned by SSP Canada Food Service Inc.

Airport location

The airport is located 12 miles west of Downtown Montréal. 

Airport facts

  • Phase II of the international terminal expansion was conceived by Humà Design and integrated three massive art installations and four vitrines showcasing Montreal's museums. 
  • Current and future projects include the restoration and upgrade of the curtain wall of the main façade on the terminal, a reconfiguration of the international arrivals hall and the domestic and international departures luggage room, an increase in the capacity of passenger curb-side areas, the rebuilding of the multi-level parking lot, the construction of a new remote terminal, and more. 
  • After the 9/11 attacks, YUL participated in Operation Yellow Ribbon, taking in seven aircraft that was bound for the closed airspace over the US. 
  • Two major airline alliances (Star Alliance and SkyTeam) have frequent flyer lounges at YUL, as both have a strong presence at the airport.

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