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Porter to remain dominant player at Island airport

Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport

Deborah Baic

Porter Aviation Holdings Inc. will remain the dominant player at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, controlling 77 per cent of the takeoff and landing slots while Air Canada will have only 15 per cent when it starts Toronto-Montreal flights in May, says Porter chief executive officer Robert Deluce.

Far from retrenching, Porter is in a strong position with its 156 slots, Mr. Deluce said in an interview Monday. Porter owns the regional airline and City Centre Terminal Corp., which will collect lease payments from Air Canada.

Mr. Deluce said some Air Canada customers will shift from Toronto's Pearson International Airport to Billy Bishop. "It is a cannibalization of Air Canada's own product," he said. With new slots at Billy Bishop likely to be awarded in 2013, Porter stands to benefit, he asserted.

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Nina Slawek, co-founder of consumer travel website, said travellers who avidly collect Aeroplan points will appreciate having the option of catching Air Canada flights at Billy Bishop. Air Canada, which will be deploying Bombardier Q400 turboprops operated by Sky Regional Airlines Inc., will only offer the Toronto-Montreal route at first, for 15 daily round-trips, or 30 slots.

Last summer, Houston-based Continental Airlines Corp. garnered the rights to the remaining 16 slots, but it hasn't set any launch date yet for possible transborder flights to Newark, N.J.

Porter has a fleet of Q400s and its network includes 16 destinations.

Ms. Slawek said Mr. Deluce has carefully crafted his moves at the Toronto island airport, devising a strategy that allows him to oversee a regional airline while he also plays the role of airport terminal landlord. "He has set himself up nicely there," she said.

Porter has enjoyed a monopoly on commercial flights at Billy Bishop since October, 2006, when the Toronto-based carrier began operations. A terminal company headed by Mr. Deluce ousted Air Canada Jazz from the airport in February, 2006.

On Monday, Air Canada began selling tickets for flights between Billy Bishop and Montreal, offering one-way fares as low as $149, effective for selected May flights. Travel agents caution that airfares change frequently, and while Porter has base fares as low as $119 one-way on its Toronto-Montreal route for May flights, consumers need to read the fine print for restrictions.

With WestJet Airlines Ltd. preparing to step up its service at Pearson with discounted ticket prices, Air Canada is offering one-way fares as low as $69 on the Pearson-Montreal route for travel in May.

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About the Author

Brent Jang is a business reporter in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. He joined the Globe in 1995. His former positions include transportation reporter in Toronto, energy correspondent in Calgary and Western columnist for Report on Business. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Alberta, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of The Gateway student newspaper. Mr. More

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