Montreal Mirabel Airport was opened in 1975 and was the largest airport ever envisaged until King Fahd International Airport in Saudi Arabia was opened in 1999. It was designed to replace the existing Dorval Airport which was said to be nearing capacity and all international flights were required to use what was described as Canada’s eastern gateway. Grand designs were drawn up and in the mid-seventies it was seen as revolutionary in terms of airport planning.
Much fanfare surrounded the launch however even before the airport opened to the public, it became obvious that problems existed with the new facility. The were overlooked in the interim as Quebec, and indeed all of Canada was about to get the opportunity to show itself off to the entire world.
The Olympics in 1976 gave Montreal a huge boost which visitors arriving from around the world and landing at Mirabel Airport. The problems that some expected upon opening did indeed surface during the Olympics, most notably with the distance to Downtown Montreal. Without the promised high speed rail line being built, it took well over an hour to get into the city and tourists visiting for the games were not impressed. It caused an infrastructural nightmare that left the country embarrassed despite what was otherwise an extremely well organised Olympics.
There didn’t appear to be a short-term viable solution to the problems with Mirabel and there was also the problem of domestic flights remaining in the existing Dorval airport meaning connections required a bus journey between the two. Travellers arriving at Montreal to transfer to other parts of Canada would have to take a bus trip across the city, sometimes in heavy traffic and as a result, Mirabel and Montreal became unpopular for connecting traffic with Toronto, Ottawa and cities in the USA grasping the opportunity to grow their own traffic at Montreal’s expense.
With the introduction of longer range jets, intercontinental flights no longer needed to stop in Mirabel and the airport failed to live up to what was imagined for it. Montreal subsequently dropped behind Toronto and Vancouver in terms of passenger numbers and by 1997, Dorval Airport was re-opened to International flights. All commercial traffic moved to the airport and Mirabel was abandoned although various companies in the cargo and aviation industry continue to use it.
Mirabel Airport began to decline rapidly and the last flight was an Air Transat flight to London in 2004. After that the passenger terminal closed and was used for filming on the Tom Hanks film The Terminal. Having a ready-built but empty airport terminal meant it attracted a lot of interest from a variety of other production companies and Mirabel has doubled as a number of airports in various TV shows and movies. There were plans to turn the airport into a theme park however these have fallen through and it remains mainly abandoned to this day.
Location: Montreal, Canada