Jazz Eyes Toronto Island with Q400s

 - February 23, 2010, 9:23 AM

Air Canada Jazz has signed an MOU with Bombardier that outlines the terms of a firm order for 15 Q400 turboprops, sending a clear signal to rival Porter Airlines of its intention to compete directly on routes from Billy Bishop Toronto City Centre Airport with virtually identical airplanes. The deal, which would include options on another 15 of the turboprops, calls for deliveries of the single-class, 74-seat airplanes to start in May next year. They would replace 15 fifty-seat Bombardier CRJ200 regional jets Jazz now flies primarily from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

Air Canada last flew from Toronto City Centre in 2006, when City Centre Aviation–a company controlled by Porter Airlines founder Robert Deluce–evicted it from the island airport. Since then Porter has flown from the downtown field unopposed.

Air Canada filed a lawsuit last month against Porter and the Toronto Port Authority “seeking fair and equal access to a federally owned and operated facility.” Although the Port Authority intends to grant more slots from the airport, it plans to “grandfather” Porter’s right to its existing 100 slots and issue half of 92 new slots to the incumbent airline, leaving only 46 slots for Air Canada and any other airline wanting to fly from the island airport. Air Canada has twice requested 74 slots, for 15 proposed round-trip flights to Montreal and Ottawa and seven round trips to Newark, N.J.