To the editor:
Council is now engaged in a debate on whether to endorse a proposal by Porter Airlines to increase the length of the runways at the island airport (YTZ) in order to accommodate the CS100 jet.
If approved by council and the signatories of the tri-partite agreement, Porter would be able to offer long-haul jet flights from the island airport. While allowing jets to use the airport is a useful debate, it is secondary to an issue that is not being debated, namely the roles that the island airport and Pearson (YYZ) should play in meeting the demand for aviation in the GTA.
This more important debate needs to take place outside of the commercial interests of Porter, Westjet, Air Canada or any other carrier.
The island airport serves a niche short-haul market that benefits those living or working in the core or along the lake, areas that are closer to island airport than Pearson.
As the length of a flight increases, the ground travel time advantage of the island airport decreases when considering total trip time. Therefore for long-haul flights the island airport would provide marginal or no time savings over flights to the same destinations served by Pearson.
Porter will likely not serve any destination not served from Pearson nor will it offer lower prices since other carriers will match their fares. Additionally, long-haul flights will decrease the number of slots available for short-haul routes that will in turn diminish the island airport’s ability to serve the niche market that Porter has successfully developed and is beneficial to the GTA.
Pearson is Canada’s most important airport for long-haul service, particularly international service. Short-haul demand displaced from the island airport will shift to Pearson, which could then lose some capacity for long haul flights.
In essence, expanding the runways at the island airport for long-haul traffic will serve only the vested interests of Porter and could to be detrimental to the GTA by restricting growth in long-haul services offered at Pearson.
The island airport is important but parameters need to be in place to optimize the region’s aviation assets and provide a suitable balance between the needs of travelers, neighbouring communities and waterfront development.
I suggest the following:
1. Establish a perimeter rule prohibiting flights in excess of a certain distance as is done at Washington National airport.
2. Implement a noise management quota system along the lines of the one used at London Heathrow in which limits are placed on both the number of flights and the cumulative amount of noise. (It is important to note that the NEF system with its noise contours is a land use planning tool not a noise management tool) and
3. Prohibit expansion beyond existing airport boundaries.
If jets can operate within these parameters, so be it.
Retired, senior manager, strategic planning at Greater Toronto Airports Authority