Evicted Jazz takes fight for Toronto Island to feds

 - September 21, 2006, 6:14 AM

Air Canada Jazz suspended all service to Toronto City Centre Airport on March 1 after an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled that the airline would have to vacate the premises to make way for Regco Holdings subsidiary Porter Airlines. Jazz sought an injunction from the provincial court to block its eviction from the facilities by the leaseholder, fellow Regco subsidiary City Centre Aviation. At the time of the eviction Air Canada Jazz operated five daily weekday round trips between the island airport and Ottawa.

Now, Air Canada has filed a complaint in federal court, alleging that the port authority has discriminated against Air Canada Jazz by granting Porter Airlines a monopoly over the Toronto City Centre Airport market. Jazz has asked the court to require the port authority to provide it with fair, reasonable and equitable use of and access to the Toronto Island Airport, including alternative space and/or facilities for scheduled service.

Porter Airlines has announced plans to launch service in September, by which time it expects to have taken delivery of the first of 10 Bombardier Q400s it ordered for the operation. The 70-seat turboprops would fly to at least 17 Canadian and U.S. destinations within a 500-nm radius of Toronto.

Almost immediately after Robert Deluce, president and CEO of Regco holdings, announced the firm order along with options on another 15, Air Canada said it would reinstate Jazz turboprop service from the island to Montreal, increase flights to Ottawa and consider opening service to other cities. Of course, the provincial court ruling squelched those plans, freeing Regco to start work on the terminal renovation in the face of still heated opposition from community leaders, who have called for Prime Minister-designate Stephen Harper to turn over control of the port authority to the city of Toronto.

The federally administered Toronto Port Authority has pledged $15 million for a new ferry, terminals and related infrastructure to support Deluce’s venture, first proposed in 2002 as part of a wider plan to build a bridge to the island but later derailed by local environmental interests. Renovations under way at the airport’s east terminal by City Centre Aviation include a complete interior restyling, installation of electronic check-in kiosks, an upgrade to wireless Internet access and construction of business work stations and a new departure lounge with food and beverage services. According to Regco, the expanded facilities will employ more than 500 people.

While it seems Deluce still has some fighting to do before he decisively wins his battle to launch Porter Airlines, he now enjoys the backing of an influential ally in former American Airlines CEO Donald Carty, who has agreed to serve as chairman of Regco Holdings.

Porter’s management team includes COO James Morrison and CFO Paul Moffat. Morrison, who last served as vice president and general manager of Execair after stints with Skyservice FBO, Air Creebec and Air Ontario, will oversee the airline’s flight and ground operations, maintenance and engineering teams. Moffat was a partner in one of Canada’s largest architectural firms, Bregman & Hamann, and served as vice president and CFO of Lac Minerals, The Citadel Insurance and Canadian Niagara Power before joining Prudential of America Life Insurance Company (Canada) in 1994 as its CFO and chief compliance officer.