6 Things To Know About The New Airline At Billy Bishop Airport & Flights Are Taking Off Soon

Including destinations and pricing. 👀✈️

Ontario Editor
A Connect Airlines jet on the tarmac. Right: A Connect Airlines jet parked at Billy Bishop Airport (YTZ).

A Connect Airlines jet on the tarmac. Right: A Connect Airlines jet parked at Billy Bishop Airport (YTZ).

Connect Airlines

Toronto's Billy Bishop Airport (YTZ) is about to welcome a new airline to its tarmac, bringing plenty more convenient travel options to those living downtown just in time for summer 2023.

Connect Airlines has been working for years now to fly out of the Toronto Island airport and it seems the new airline is just about ready to launch.

Soon to be competing with Porter Airlines and select Air Canada flights, Connect Airlines is set to join the list of Billy Bishop departures and arrivals with some new destinations and the goal of disrupting the market.

Here are six things you should know about Connect Airlines as the company prepares for its official launch.

New destinations from Billy Bishop Airport

Connect Airlines will launch with three available routes to Philadelphia Int'l. (PHL), Chicago O'Hare (ORD), and Baltimore Thurgood Marshall (BWI), all of which are new destinations for travellers flying out of Billy Bishop.

Porter Airlines currently flies to Chicago via Chicago Midway Int'l instead of O'Hare. That new destination will connect downtown Toronto to what is the sixth-largest airport in the world by passenger volume, according to World Data.

But Connect Airlines has already promised other destinations are soon on the way.

"The New York market is an important market," said Connect Airlines CEO John Thomas in an interview with Narcity.

He also named cities like Boston, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Hartford.

"Obviously a lot of those airports currently support services into (Toronto) Pearson. And so over time, we think we can grow to complement the Pearson services with the services into Billy Bishop," said Thomas.

More routes are set to be announced after the airline's official launch.

More comfort on a smaller plane

The premium section of a Connect Airlines jet.

The premium section of a Connect Airlines jet.

Connect Airlines

Like all of the commercial jets that fly in and out of Billy Bishop, Connect Airlines will also be flying Bombardier's smaller Dash 8-Q400, but they've reconfigured the aircraft to make it more comfortable compared to what anyone who has flown with Porter Airlines might be used to.

"Regional jets or turboprop flying has always had sort of a bad rap (...) and we wanted to transform the experience so it was a better experience for everyone," said Thomas. "We think we're actually the first turboprop operator in the world to actually have a premium cabin."

Thomas explained the Connect Airlines jets are equipped with 26 seats with an extra five inches of seat pitch, which the airline was able to accomplish by removing row seven of the aircraft so it has four fewer seats (74) than the standard Q400 (78).

Connect Airlines jets also have full-sized overhead bins and a boxed meal service that will be free for anyone sitting in the premium section and for sale to all other passengers.

Competitive prices

You might not be able to buy a ticket for a Connect Airlines flight just yet, but the airline did give Narcity a good idea of what it plans to charge its passengers.

"We will be competitive," said Thomas. "We're not going head to head with Porter, so it's not as if we're going to come in and cut prices and all of that (...) We think that Porter offers very competitive fares in the market so that would be the type of price point that we'd be looking for."

For reference, Porter Airlines offers a one-way ticket to Boston starting at $178, or to Chicago-Midway starting at $197.

"Our target market is the business traveller," Thomas said.

Partnerships with major airlines 

Alongside its plans to announce more of its own routes, Connect Airlines is also working to collaborate with some other major airline carriers.

The idea behind that is to make it easier for anyone travelling with them to fly from Billy Bishop to a major hub, like Chicago O'Hare, and to have a seamless connection to another flight that could take them just about anywhere in the world.

"We haven't announced those collaborations yet but we anticipate that we'll be we'll be announcing those just around the time of time of our launch," said Thomas. "We do think from both the business but also from the leisure perspective, we really do provide people with a lot of choice."

The target launch date

Connect Airlines has had to meet a number of time-consuming requirements before it can get the proper approvals from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Transport Canada.

Conducting proving runs is one of the finals steps for the airline, and Thomas said those have now been completed.

"We met the 150-hour requirement on the proving flights about three weeks ago," he said. "We're hoping that we're in the final stretch on the certification process."

Thomas said right now, that puts the target launch date for Connect Airlines somewhere around May of 2023.

"We'd like to be able to do something by May," said Thomas.

Aside from these final regulatory hurdles, Thomas explained Connect Airlines already has everything needed for its launch ready to go including its website booking engine, a mobile app, and call centres.

Connect Airlines wants to make history

Universal Hydrogen completing its first hydrogen-powered flight for a regional airline.

Universal Hydrogen completing its first hydrogen-powered flight for a regional airline.

Universal Hydrogen

The most ambitious part of what Connect Airlines hopes to do will have a positive impact on the environment and also potentially make history in the world of commercial aviation.

"Our plan is basically to be the first zero-emission airline in North America," said Thomas.

Connect Airlines has a partnership with a company called Universal Hydrogen that in early March successfully completed the first hydrogen-powered flight for a regional airline using a smaller jet that can hold up to 40 passengers.

"Not only are they zero-emission aircraft but because they're electric engines, they're actually a lot quieter," Thomas explained. "We're quite keen once we have the aircraft operating to bring those into Billy Bishop because it's just going to further reduce the noise footprint of the airport."

The airline plans to convert 75 of these smaller jets to hydrogen power and hopes to add the planes to its fleet within the next two to three years.

"We're hoping that it'll be the 2025-2026 timeframe that we'll have these aircraft," said Thomas.

Stuart McGinn
Ontario Editor
Stuart McGinn is Narcity’s Ontario Editor and focuses mainly on covering major provincial and local news stories across the province. Stuart is from Ottawa and is now based in Toronto.
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