Porter Airlines’ dream of building jet operations at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ) had another setback after PortsToronto, the federal port authority, new announcement that it has halted work on an environmental assessment and two studies requested by city council in 2014.
The airline had grand plans to expand the city airport which just celebrated the opening of a pedestrian tunnel (News – July 30, 2015) with the Bombardier new CSeries 100 jets.
Here is a timeline of what has transpired in the saga thus far:
April 2013: Porter Airlines unveils the surprise pitch to supplement its turboprop fleet (Bombardier Q400s) with jets and places a conditional order with Bombardier. The deal was for new CS100 series – 12 jets initially with the option for up to another 18 options. The deal valued at US$2.29 billion (~CDN$3 billion) at market value. The new aircraft type would have a range of 2,950 nautical miles (5,463 km), up 12,000 lbs. (5,443 kg) lighter than comparable aircrafts while having a capacity of between 100-149 seats based on different configurations.
In order for jet operations to become a reality, the airline would require to overcome the following obstacles:
- City of Toronto, the Government of Canada and the Toronto Port Authority (Tripartite Agreement ) will have to reopen an old agreement that bans jet service in the area over thirty years ago
- An extension of up to 125 feet (200 meters) to be built at both ends of the runway which will cost approximately ~US$60 million (CDN$80 million).
- Expand terminal facilities to allow for expanded service and passenger capacity. The airline had plans to increase operations to the following North American cities:
May 2013: Toronto council votes 29-15 for a staff study of issues around the Porter request.
June 2013: An interim city reports pegs runway expansion cost at $80 million.
September 2013: After delays, the CSeries has a successful maiden test flight in Montreal.
March 2014: A Forum poll says 46 per cent of Torontonians favour jets at the island airport, while 40 per cent oppose them.
April 2014: Council votes 44-0 to negotiate with the port authority over airport expansion, but includes a long list of conditions with no indication of support. Port authority agrees to do required studies.
September 2015: Eight Liberal MPs write Toronto council about the east Gardiner Expressway but also commit to no jets at the island airport.
October 2015: After the Liberals win federally, MP Adam Vaughan tells the Toronto Star newspaper the airport expansion plan is dead. Jet proponents say that’s not official.
November 2015: Transport Minister Marc Garneau confirms the government will not reopen the island airport agreement.
December 2015: The port authority says it has halted work on the council-requested studies. Porter notes some technical work on the studies will continue.
Winners and Losers
PortsToronto’s announcement is a key win for local politician Adam Vaughn, Air Canada and citizens who oppose to the plans for different reasons.
The federal Liberal politician and waterfront citizens want to preserve the area while the airline wants to reduce flight operations for competitive reasons.
Porter Airlines is the key loser here as it is likely not be able to overcome the challenging landscapes to obtain the approvals necessary for expansion. It will continue its partnership with jetBlue Airways in the meantime (News – November 11, 2014).
In the next post, we will look into what is next for Porter Airlines. Perhaps, the end of this era can help the regional airline think bigger.