Toronto island airport could expand in 2010

Toronto's island airport could be expanded in 2010 as more airlines have expressed interest in flying out of the busy commuter hub, the Toronto Port Authority says.

Toronto's island airport could be expanded in 2010 because more airlines have expressed interest in flying out of the busy commuter hub, the Toronto Port Authority says.

Currently, Porter Airlines is the only commercial carrier operating from the airport, which in November was renamed the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, in honour of the First World War flying ace.

Porter said it had an average 110 takeoffs and landings a day at the end of 2009. It expects to increase that number to 120 a day in early 2010.

However, the Toronto Port Authority which operates the facility on a small island just off Toronto's downtown, said in a recent statement that between 42 and 92 more flights a day could be added in 2010 — a potential air traffic increase of 75 per cent.

Geoff Wilson, the port authority's CEO, said the organization has received a number of "informal proposals" from airlines expressing interest in flying out of the airport and will now "solicit formal business proposals" from airlines interested in securing slots.

Air Canada and, according to reports, several major U.S. airlines are interested in flying out of the airport.

"Our objective is to increase and diversify the number of destinations serviced by the airport," Wilson said in the release. "There are many attractive short haul destinations that are still not served by the BBTCA."

The port authority's statement follows a preliminary report it received outlining the results of an updated noise impact study and capacity assessment of the airport.

Some city residents and politicians — including Toronto Mayor David Miller — are opposed to the expansion, arguing that a busy airport facility downtown, with its noise and environmental toll, is not suited to residential neighbourhoods and recreational activities on the city's waterfront.

Brian Iler of the group CommunityAIR said expanding the airport to more than 200 arrivals and departures per day would violate a 1983 agreement between the City of Toronto, the TPA and the government of Canada.

"I don’t know what the port authority is thinking about when they say they’re going to expand to 212. That’s not on. It’s totally not permitted, and it can’t happen."

Any new operators on the island facility would first have to negotiate terminal space from City Centre Terminal Corp., whose parent company also owns Porter Airlines.

Porter began flying out of the island airport in fall 2006. The commuter airline is currently completing a $45-million renovation of its island terminal to outfit it with a second passenger lounge, new aircraft gates and Canadian and U.S. customs checkpoints by spring 2010.

Air Canada's regional Jazz carrier cut its service from downtown Toronto in March 2006, after it was evicted from the airport. It later sought to restore daily service to Ottawa and Montreal, but was rebuffed by the port authority, which refused to approve a lease that would allow Jazz to use the island's facilities.