WestJet Seeks Slots to Fly 737 Jets From Toronto’s Billy Bishop

WestJet Airlines Ltd. will seek to operate Boeing Co. 737 Max aircraft from Toronto’s Billy Bishop airport if it gets takeoff and landing slots at the island airfield, Chief Executive Officer Gregg Saretsky said.

“We would like to have access to the island airport but there are no slots available,” Saretsky said in a telephone interview from Calgary yesterday. “We would like to have the opportunity to fly jets ourselves from that airport. The 737 is capable of operating off the runway at Billy Bishop.”

Passenger jets are prohibited at Billy Bishop -- a ban that Porter Airlines Inc. wants to overturn. Toronto City Council’s executive committee voted two weeks ago to defer until 2014 a decision on whether to allow jets and lengthen the runway.

WestJet agreed in September to buy 65 737 Max aircraft with a list value of $6.3 billion, with deliveries due to start in 2017. Canada’s second-largest carrier doesn’t own any of the 202 slots at Billy Bishop. Porter, with 172, and Air Canada, with 30, are the only airlines that operate there.

The airport sits on a Lake Ontario island about 100 meters (328 feet) from Toronto’s downtown waterfront. It draws business fliers and skiers heading to Quebec’s Mont Tremblant or Burlington, Vermont.

Asked whether the Max would comply with noise restrictions at Billy Bishop, Saretsky said: “I would say a qualified yes. The Max is not yet flying, so we have asked Boeing for information on what the noise output is. We would have to look at whatever requirement was imposed on the airport.”

Porter wants to operate jets at Billy Bishop as part of a plan to double its flight network and reach as far as Los Angeles and the Caribbean. It’s agreed to buy as many as 30 CSeries jets from Bombardier Inc., an order that is conditional on the runway extension and a removal of the jet ban.

WestJet operates about 95 daily flights at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. The airfield, Canada’s busiest, is located about 30 kilometers from the city’s downtown.

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