Toronto’s island airport draws more controversy

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Air Canada is challenging methods used by the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) in the allocation of slots at Billy Bishop Toronto City Centre Airport, arguing the process shows favouritism to incumbent carrier Porter Airlines.

Porter inaugurated flights from the downtown island airport in 2006 after forging an exclusivity agreement with the TPA to operate from City Centre, which spurred legal action by Air Canada Jazz.

Air Canada is now requesting that a Canadian court "set aside" how TPA allocated the slots once the exclusivity period ended. Near the end of June of this year TPA announced the allocation of 90 slots to three carriers - 44 to Porter, 30 to Air Canada and 16 to Continental. Currently, Porter holds 100 slots to operate roughly 50 roundtrip flights from the airport.

Air Canada believes the process unfairly upholds the undisclosed exclusivity agreement between TPA and Porter, and "perpetuates it" by entitling Porter to 50% of any additional slots.

By granting Air Canada "a small share" of the remaining 50% of additional slots, the carrier argues it cannot offer competitive high frequency service in the "Island Business Corridor" of Toronto-Montreal-Ottawa.

Air Canada states that it has twice asked TPA for 74 slots at the island airport to support 15 daily roundtrip flights each to Montreal and Ottawa and seven roundtrip flights to Newark Liberty International airport.

The carrier argues that TPA has violated the Canada Marine Act that prohibits the authority "from favouring one private entity over another in perpetuity for reasons which are not integrally related to the Act's purposes".

Air Canada and TPA were presenting their arguments in a Canadian federal court 6-8 of July.