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WestJet sparks debate over Toronto Island airport plans

Dec. 19, 2013, Toronto - WestJet Airlines Inc. has reiterated its request that it be allowed to join Porter Airlines Inc. in flying jets into and out of Billy Bishop International Airport, sparking another demand by Councillor Adam Vaughan that any expansion of the airport be stopped.


December 19, 2013
By The Globe and Mail

Gregg Saretsky, chief executive officer of WestJet, said new Boeing 737
planes the airline is ordering are capable of operating out of Billy
Bishop, but there are no slots available.

“We would like to have the opportunity to fly jets ourselves from
that airport,” Mr. Saretsky was quoted as saying in a Bloomberg News
interview. “The 737 is capable of operating off the runway at Billy
Bishop.”

 

If he is correct, then Air Canada would also be able to
fly jets from the airport because it has also ordered the updated
version of the Boeing 737 that WestJet will receive.

 

Mr. Vaughan
hit on a key issue that needs to be addressed in the Porter plan to fly
Bombardier Inc. C Series planes out of Billy Bishop.

 

“Once you
open up to [Porter CEO Robert] Deluce’s jets, you open up to WestJet,
Air Canada and any other carrier who has access to Canada has a right to
land and use the international airport,” he said.

 

“Everyone gets a
fair shot at it and there’s no control. And you surrender the airport
to something the size of the Ottawa International Airport.”

 

Porter has 172 of the 202 slots at Billy Bishop, while Air Canada has the other 30. WestJet has none.

 

The
Boeing 737 Max, which is the plane ordered by both WestJet and Air
Canada, has not flown yet, so it’s not known if its new, more
fuel-efficient engines will meet the noise requirements that so far have
been one of the factors that have kept jets out of the skies above the
Toronto harbour.

 

Mr. Deluce believes the C Series will meet the noise requirements.

 

Air
Canada chief executive officer Calin Rovinescu has stopped short of
calling for access for Air Canada jets, but said earlier this fall that
Billy Bishop “ is not somebody’s private playground and it cannot be
structured as somebody’s private playground because we’re dealing with a
public asset that is meant to have proper competition.”

 

Mr.
Rovinescu called for the city and the Toronto Port Authority to give Air
Canada the same access as Porter, but as a commuter facility that
permits short-haul travel to and from the centre of Toronto.