In a bold move to revitalize and expand Montreal Saint-Hubert Airport (YHU), Porter Airlines is investing in a commercial air service terminal. This project aims to turn the general aviation airport into a bustling commercial hub, catering to the needs of both the local community and the broader region.
Set to encompass an expansive 21,000 square meters with nine bridged gates, the new terminal at YHU is designed to mirror the comfortable and lounge-like experience that passengers have enjoyed at Billy Bishop Airport (YTZ). The focus is on simplicity and speed, creating an environment that will streamline passengers' journey and save them precious time.
Once opened, the facility is designed to accommodate up to four million passengers annually. The visionary plan, born out of extensive community consultations, aims to bring forth a bustling terminal that not only caters to the demands of modern air travel but also encapsulates the rich history and aspirations of the community.
"The transformation of Montreal Saint-Hubert Airport is a unique and collaborative endeavor,” said CEO of YHU Yanic Roy, “From community engagement to sustainable initiatives, we're confident that this project will usher in a new era of aviation for the region.”
YHU was initially built in 1927. Once a major player on Canada's aviation landscape, the airport's importance waned over the years, evolving into a general aviation hub. Since the 1940s, the airport has primarily served general aviation purposes, hosting flight schools and maintenance operations.
The pivotal partnership with Porter Airlines is expected to reinvigorate the airport and provide the necessary impetus for its transformation.
"Porter is bringing a lot of experience in airport development,” Roy said. “We’ve seen the impressive results at Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto. Their reputation, along with their commitment to cooperating with regional airlines, made them an ideal partner."
Construction of the terminal started in August, with completion expected in Q2 of 2025.
"Montreal is a key focus for our future expansion plan,” said President and CEO of Porter Aviation Holdings Inc. Michael Deluce, “Having a unique and differentiated offering at YHU will allow us to grow at a faster pace."
Deluce emphasizes that while the YHU terminal will follow the theme and concept of Billy Bishop, it won't be an exact replica.
"It won't be identical, but the theme and concept of a comfortable lounge environment complemented by internet access, lounge-style seating, and ample space will be carried forward," he said.
The new terminal will serve as a hub for Porter's operations, with plans to deploy their E195-E2 aircraft and dash aircraft to offer a range of domestic destinations across Canada, from Vancouver to Saint John's.
The project will not only cater to Porter's expansion but will also facilitate regional air service. Porter will collaborate with regional carrier Pascan through a code-share agreement, enhancing connectivity within Quebec. This partnership will allow Pascan to tap into state-of-the-art facilities and expand its network across the region.
“Porter will be the only carrier offering a convenient service from both YUL and YHU,” Deluce said. “We'll be well-positioned to capture the widest range of traffic from the Montreal marketplace."
The project involves a comprehensive partnership between Porter and Macquarie Asset Management (MAM), an experienced airport asset operator and investor.
MAM is one of the world’s largest infrastructure managers. The investment in YHU adds to its global airport and airport-related infrastructure experience, which includes current investments in the operators of Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Ecuador; El Dorado International Airport in Colombia; Aberdeen, Glasgow, Farnborough and Southampton Airports in the United Kingdom; and North Queensland and Perth Airports in Australia.
"The project is a significant undertaking, building a 21,000-square-meter terminal and associated equipment,” Deluce said. “We found a partnership with Macquarie, which brings operational expertise and financial capital to the project."
YHU leadership established a development table that includes elected officials, community members, and key stakeholders. Working groups focused on mobility, noise management, innovation and tourism were organized to address key elements of adding a commercial service airport to the region.
Roy underscored that the project isn't just about physical changes; it's about aligning with the community's aspirations.
"The project reflects the needs and desires of our community,” he said. “Through extensive consultations, we've learned that the public seeks increased flight options during the day, a preference for no night flights, and the growth of an aerospace cluster."
Roy said the anticipated economic benefits of the project are substantial. Aside from the revenues generated through landing fees and terminal activities, the project is expected to stimulate real estate development around the airport. YHU has three runways, more than 3.5 million square meters of space and is less than 10 kilometers from downtown Montreal, which makes it accessible to a significant portion of the population.
"The revenue streams include landing fees, terminal activity revenue sharing, and real estate income,” Roy said. “The airport's economic contribution is set to soar, with projected annual revenue increasing significantly."
Sustainability is also a crucial aspect of the project, as Porter is committed to being net carbon-zero. Electric ground equipment and renewable energy sources will minimize the environmental footprint of the terminal.
The airport's commitment to a greener future aligns with the province's hydroelectric focus.
"We are in Quebec, a province that heavily relies on clean and affordable hydroelectric energy. Our plan includes adopting electric ground support equipment, and we're even exploring the possibility of integrating solar panels," Roy explained. “This commitment to sustainability extends to the airport's new electric shuttle system, enhancing accessibility and reducing environmental impact.”
"While Porter Airlines is the anchor carrier, the financial and operational conditions will be the same for all airlines. We're actively engaging with multiple carriers to ensure a thriving aviation ecosystem," Roy said.
Note: The Montreal Saint-Hubert Airport project is expected to be fully operational by the summer of 2025. The information shared in this feature is based on an interview conducted on August 11, 2023.