Air Canada calls for "more open" slot allocation at Toronto City airport

Cape Town
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Air Canada has called on Canadian authorities to treat any potential new slot allocation at Billy Bishop Toronto City airport in a "more open fashion", as rival Porter Airlines seeks to operate jets from the slot-constrained airport.

"It needs to have a proper and adequate slot process... they [the authorities] have to treat it in a more open fashion," Air Canada's chief executive Calin Rovinescu tells Flightglobal on the sidelines of the IATA annual general meeting in Cape Town.

Porter unveiled on 10 April a conditional order for up to 30 Bombardier CSeries aircraft, which it wants to operate out of the airport, where it holds the majority of landing slots. However, Porter would require a runway extension at the airport as well as approval from three government bodies to allow the CSeries to operate at Billy Bishop, where jets are not allowed.

In addition, Porter told Flightglobal it would require at least 40 new additional slots for its CS100 operations. All 202 slots for commercial airline operations at the airport are in use, of which Porter holds 172.

Rovinescu says Air Canada will see how Porter's plan plays out, but says: "Who would expect a review of what aircraft types will fly there? We don't expect it [the airport] to be a private playground for one carrier."

Relations between Air Canada and the Toronto Port Authority (TPA), the airport's operator, have been thorny ever since Porter launched operations there in 2006 under an exclusivity agreement it had with TPA. The agreement spurred a lawsuit that year from Air Canada's regional partner Jazz, which was subsequently dropped when Air Canada itself pursued legal action in 2010.

Air Canada's legal action came after the expiry of the exclusivity agreement, which prompted a slot allocation process by the TPA which saw a majority of slots being allocated to Porter.

When then-Continental Airlines subsequently relinquished 16 slots at the airport in 2011, they were awarded to Porter. In late 2011, a Canadian federal court dismissed Air Canada's appeal against the 2010 slot allocation process, saying that Air Canada's arguments were "without merit".

Despite this, Air Canada still argues that the TPA shows favouritism towards Porter.

"We believe in good and fair competition," Rovinescu tells Flightglobal, "We don't know of any other airport where there are restrictions based on the desires of the airport authority or airline."

Air Canada operates on only one route out of the airport, offering 15 daily round-trips to Montreal operated by its regional partner Sky Regional.