Canada

Mirabel closes doors to passenger flights

The last passenger flight from Montreal's Mirabel Airport is scheduled to depart Sunday night.

The last passenger flight from Montreal's Mirabel Airport is scheduled to depart Sunday night, drawing to a close a chapter in Canadian aviation history.

When Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau opened the airport to great fanfare in 1975, supporters predicted that Mirabel would become a gateway to the world, luring 60 million passengers annually by 2010.

It never fulfilled that promise. At its peak, it drew no more than three million people a year.

The final passenger plane is to take off from the vast, empty terminal shortly before 9 p.m. Sunday night. About 330 passengers will fly to Paris on Air Transat.

After that, all passenger traffic will go through Montreal's main facility, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (formerly Dorval).

Mirabel will only handle cargo flight services and some light industry.

"I think for some people it's a sad thing today, but in reality it's finally the end of a dilemma," said Christiane Beaulieu, a spokeswoman for the city's airport authority, Aéroports de Montreal.

"For all those 30 years, Montreal was always wondering which airport (to use) for passengers."

She said the authority made the decision because the airport had for years carried an annual deficit of $20 million.

As well, many parts of the airport remained unfinished, including crucial roads and terminals to serve travellers from the United States and within Canada.

"Nothing was put in place so that it was a success here," Beaulieu told CBC Newsworld.

The federal government paid $700 million to build Mirabel in the early 1970s, destroying 800 houses and forcing about 12,000 people to relocate.