Regionals Update: Toronto City Center to host new regional airline

 - May 7, 2008, 11:59 AM

As part of a plan to develop Toronto City Center Airport into a viable commercial hub, the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) has entered negotiations with a local holding company to base a new regional airline at the island airport. Known as Regional Airlines Holding Co. (Regco), the new airline plans to start operations within a year, by which time it plans to inaugurate service to Ottawa, Chicago and New York. Plans call for more service to 17 cities within a 90-min flight time or 500 nm, including Montreal, Quebec City, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington and Boston.

“We will not use jets and will not require any changes to the existing runways,” said Regco president and CEO Robert Deluce, who proposed placing an order with Bombardier for 15 Dash 8Q-400 turboprops to fill the plan’s capacity needs. Toronto City Center offers three runways (4,000 ft, 3,000 ft and 2,780 ft long). A tripartite agreement signed by the Canadian government, the city of Toronto and the Toronto Harbor Commission bars any runway extensions or jet traffic aside from activity associated with medevac operations or the CNE Air Show. The 1983 agreement also prohibits construction of a bridge to the island.

However, Regco will not proceed with its plans until the authority can secure the needed waivers to build such a bridge. Approved by the Toronto City Council in 1998, the bridge plan must meet a variety of environmental and economic conditions before construction can begin. Although TPA chairman Henry Pankratz expressed confidence that the plans would win council approval by the end of last month, an amendment to the tripartite agreement stands as perhaps the most formidable barrier to Regco’s plans.

Meanwhile, the TPA continues public consultation on the design of a new passenger terminal for the airport, capable of accommodating 600,000 passengers per year within five years. Air Canada Jazz currently carries roughly 110,000 passengers a year between the airport and Ottawa, Montreal and London, Ontario.