Waterloo Region’s status as a science and technology hub – think of the likes of Google, Blackberry and Toyota, for instance – brings some greater demand for physical connections, road, rail and air.
With improvements and some juggling of financing, the region has been trying to boost the air links via the airport in Breslau.
The most recent advance along those lines is a new flight service being offered out of Toronto. Starting November 6, FlyGTA Airlines will be offering flights twice daily between Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto, and the Breslau-based airport. Planes will ferry up to eight passengers at a time between the two cities in just 18 minutes.
“Primarily, this takes the 401 out of the equation for a lot of business people who are on limited time schedules,” explained regional Coun. Tom Galloway.
Typically, he said, “you pretty much have to count on a two-and-a-half hour ride, you have to count on fairly expensive parking and, in some cases, you would have to count on an overnight stay at a hotel.
“But with this particular service you can certainly save a lot of time, the parking expense and, depending on what your schedule is … even an overnight stay. So this could actually be quite economical to a business person.”
At $129 before tax each way, the savings can certainly add up. Galloway added that the airline was hoping to add two additional flights each way between the two cities later in January for a total of four. With the success of FlyGTA’s Niagara to Toronto service, he says, he believes there is definitely a strong demand for fast transit to and from Toronto, and it’s an optimism shared by the airline.
As well their Waterloo-Toronto route, FlyGTA announced two daily services taking passengers from Billy Bishop to Barrie and London, Ontario.
“We’ve been pleased with the success of our Toronto-to-Niagara flight service over the past year, and FLYGTA is excited to be able to add to our list of destinations in Ontario,” said Chris Nowrouzi, FLYGTA chief executive officer in a release.
Waterloo Region has, likewise, been in the market for additional routes that connect the region to other parts of Canada. Currently, the airport has daily flights to Calgary offered by WestJet, and seasonal weekly flights to Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic available through Sunwing Airlines, between December and March.
But the region is looking to expand further. On October 13, the region put out a request to Canadian airliners for new routes to and from the Breslau airport, offering companies exclusive rights to those routes in an effort to entice smaller, cheaper airlines to the table.
“[Low-cost carriers] like the idea of having exclusive rights because experience in the past has shown that when a new airline tries to start-up, the two legacy airlines then try to go head-to-head with them,” said Galloway.
He pointed to the case of New Leaf airline company (now Flair Airlines) as an example of a smaller airline that was forced out of the market. Earlier this year, the start-up airline announced it would stop offering flights between Hamilton airport and Florida, as well as routes from Edmonton to Florida and Arizona, citing aggressive competition by the bigger airlines.
While not naming any companies specifically, New Leaf officially announced their Edmonton routes on Nov. 16, 2016, just two days after WestJet announced its own flight services exactly mirroring New Leaf’s from Calgary and Edmonton to Arizona. New Leaf also says it was forced to cancel its Hamilton to Florida flights for the same reason.
“But with exclusivity, they’ll have at least two years to establish themselves and have exclusive rights to that particular route, and that is certainly very attractive to start-up airlines,” said Galloway.
The Region of Waterloo International Airport is owned and operated by the upper-tier municipality. There is ample room for the airport to grow as, according to the region’s 2017 budget, the airport is “currently operating at about 40 per cent of its capacity, meaning passenger numbers could be more than doubled with very little capital or operating increases.”