Airlines Battle Over Flights From Toronto Island

Air Canada Jazz said yesterday it will resume service from the Toronto City Centre Airport to Ottawa and Montreal at the end of August - ahead of a Toronto-Ottawa service the new Porter Airlines plans in the fall.

But the Toronto Port Authority, the federally appointed agency that oversees the island airport, said Jazz's previous operating agreement is no longer valid and a new agreement must be reached before it can resume service.

In a letter to Jazz CEO Joseph Randell yesterday, port authority head Lisa Raitt said the agency wasn't given advance notice of the Jazz announcement.

Raitt wouldn't comment on negotiations between the port authority and Jazz, other than to say the two sides aren't any closer to reaching an agreement than they were in the spring.

Jazz flew between the Toronto City Centre airport on the island and Ottawa until February, when it was evicted from the airport by City Centre Aviation Ltd., which operates the airport on behalf of the Toronto Port Authority.

City Centre Aviation is controlled by Robert Deluce, who owns Porter Airlines.

Porter announced last week that it plans to run 10 round-trip flights a day to Ottawa, starting in the fall, using 70-passenger Bombardier Q400 turboprop planes.

Porter eventually plans to fly to 17 cities, including Montreal, Boston, Chicago, Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Detroit.

Jazz spokeswoman Debra Williams said the company's operating agreement with the port authority was never terminated and is still in effect.

But Raitt told the Toronto Star that Jazz had not taken up opportunities in the past to increase its service at the airport.

"I don't think it's coincidence that Porter announces their schedule and their frequency between Toronto and Ottawa last week, and this week Air Canada Jazz makes the announcement that they made today."

Jazz said yesterday it will resume flying at the island on Aug. 28, with 10 weekday round-trip flights to Ottawa and seven to Montreal. There will also be weekend service.

Jazz plans to operate from another building, near City Centre Aviation's terminal, that is owned by Stolport Corp., an aircraft handling and airport service company.

Randell said improved ferry service and facilities being built by the Toronto Port Authority factored into Jazz's decision to resume flights on the island.

Yesterday's announcement pits Jazz against Porter in a battle sure to upset opponents of the island airport, who have long complained about noise and pollution.

Olivia Chow, the member of parliament for the downtown riding of Trinity-Spadina, said Torontonians should boycott the airport and she called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to put the port authority under trusteeship.

"They should actually hand the lands back to the citizens of Toronto and give the whole matter back to the city of Toronto," Chow said. "They should just fold up shop and just quit the airport."

Mayor David Miller campaigned during the 2003 municipal election against a proposed $22 million bridge to replace the airport's ferry service and the expansion of the airport

Yesterday, he expressed concern about the port authority expanding its air service while it's under review by the federal transport department.

Roger Tasse, a former deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney general turned senior bureaucrat, will conduct a review and report to Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon by Sept. 1.

"The decision by Air Canada, while understandable for reasons related to corporate competitiveness, underscores the urgency of the Tasse review and highlights the inappropriateness of the port authority's continuing push to expand the island airport," Miller said in a news release.

Bill Freeman, from the advocacy group Community Air, said island and waterfront residents are "very disturbed" by Jazz's announcement. "This is going to be a major ratchet-up of air traffic down there," Freeman said.

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