Air Canada reassessing Toronto’s Billy Bishop island airport

MONTREAL – Air Canada (TSX:AC) says it’s evaluating the viability of flying from the Billy Bishop airport, located on one of Toronto’s lakeshore islands.

The Montreal-based airline’s main Toronto hub is at Pearson International Airport to the west in neighboring Mississauga but it has also flown from the smaller airport closer to the city centre for several years.

Billy Bishop is the main base for rival Porter Airlines, which competes with Air Canada and WestJet (TSX:WJA) on a regional basis.

Air Canada says its traffic at Biilly Bishop increased in 2014 over the previous year but it’s assessing the operation based on terminal rates and terms.

The company also released its overall passenger traffic statistics for December, the fourth quarter and all of 2014 on Tuesday.

Passenger traffc was up 8.5 per cent last year compared with 2013, largely as a result of the addition of Air Canada Rouge flights last year. Air Canada’s 2014 load factor was 83.4 per cent, up 0.6 points from 82.8 per cent in 2013.

In December, Air Canada’s traffic was up 8.3 per cent from a year before, with 4.99 billion revenue passenger miles, while capacity grew by 8.5 per cent to 6.04 billion available seat miles.

Air Canada’s load factor in December, measuring how much of capacity was used, was 82.6 per cent – down marginally from 82.7 per cent a year earlier.

Traffic on Air Canada’s transborder routes between Canada and the United States was up 16.2 per cent in December and 13.1 per cent for the year. Transatlantic traffic in December was up nine per cent and up 13.6 per cent for the full year. There were also smaller increases on its Canadian, Pacific and Latin America-Caribbean routes.

“These strong results, for both the month and full year, underscore the effectiveness of our commercial strategy focusing on international growth and the strategic deployment of Air Canada Rouge to compete more effectively in leisure markets,” Air Canada chief executive Calin Rovinescu.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Walter Spracklin says the December traffic and capacity growth were higher than anticipated. He said the slight decline in load factor still left Air Canada at at “a very healthy” 82.6 per cent rate.

“All said, it was another strong month for Air Canada and highlights the continued strength in demand levels across all regions,” Spracklin wrote.

He added that the Billy Bishop airport “comprises a very small portion of Air Canada’s overall network and any changes would not be material.”


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