Take Offs & Landings
The winds of change may be sweeping across the busiest skyscape in Canada
Winds of change may be sweeping across Toronto’s airport scene. Plus Abu Dhabi’s pre-clearance proposal hits a roadblock. Construction underway at Gatwick. Tampa gets real-time gate information display. SEA unveils new United lounge. Love the updates at DAL.
There’s a battle brewing north of the border for the hearts and pocketbooks of business travelers. Two airports – one large, the other small – are vying for your favor. Carriers covet business travelers, and business travelers crave airfields close to the action, near the city center. Toronto Pearson International (YYZ) is 18 miles distance from downtown, and the drive is a pain. Tiny Billy Bishop (YTZ) is almost in downtown Toronto. Indeed, locals still refer to the place as Toronto City Centre Airport.
Porter Airlines is YTZ’s prime player, fielding comparatively closein Q400 propjet flights from downtown Toronto to eastern Canada and the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. If you live in or near Boston, Burlington, VT, New York City, Washington, DC, Myrtle Beach, SC, even as far afield as Chicago, you can catch a quiet Q400 propjet to Billy Bishop and be – quite literally – at the doorstep of downtown Toronto. The airport is a scant two miles away from the city’s vibrant financial and entertainment districts.
Locals love Billy too, so much so that a poll by Forum Research finds a full 47 percent of them would like the airport opened up to pure jet flights, something that’s currently prohibited.
Pure-jets, specifically the quiet, Canadian-built Bombardier CS100, would allow Porter to extend YTZ’s reach as far as Calgary, or the West Coast of the United States. The poll indicates growing support for rendering Billy Bishop a pure-jet port – even though that would entail lengthening the runway.
Porter seems optimistic the skyscape will change, that the current ban on pure-jets will be lifted. It has a conditional deal with Bombardier to obtain at least a dozen CS100s, which can seat 110 passengers.
Porter isn’t the only player at Bishop. Air Canada too flies Q400 propjets from its close-in confines. The route links Toronto with Montreal.
But Toronto Pearson International is Air Canada’s domain, and it’s dominant there.
Locals love Billy Bishop, so much so that a full 47 percent of them would like the air prt opened up to pure jet flights
Airports Council International - North America ranks YYZ, as the 15th-busiest airport on the continent, one slot below Newark and just ahead of Minneapolis/ Saint Paul. ACI-NA’s latest tally shows 33,118,499 souls passed through Toronto in 2011, a robust (remember the state of the economy) jump over 2010 figures.
From YYZ, Air Canada will fly you nonstop or direct to a slew of international destinations, approximately 50 in all – that’s not counting transborder flights to the United States. Among AC’s routes: Tokyo Narita, Tel Aviv, London Heathrow, Lima and Hong Kong.
AC’s transborder lift from the United States is equally prodigious, rivaling US carrier feed into their international gateways. In all, Air Canada connects Pearson with some 50 US cities, to mid-size towns like Albany and Grand Rapids as well as places like Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale. Overall, airlines serving Toronto Pearson loft nonstop or same-plane service to more than 180 destinations.
Further smoothing US connections is pre-clearance. Instead of clearing Customs and Border Protection in, say, Newark, you do so before you board the plane in Toronto. Saves considerable time when you arrive back home.
Doing Business at YYZ
Pearson’s airborne connectivity is terrific; the ground-bound variety is a work in progress. It’s that long drive to the airport that irks Pearson passengers. Local leaders know that, and they’ve come up with a solution: the Union Pearson Express, a rail line that’s slated to connect YYZ’s Terminal 1 with Union Station by 2015. Ground access to the airport has been the Achilles heel of Toronto’s prime air portal for decades, and a fix is at hand.
Meanwhile you’re going to have to put up with the traffic. A taxi ride downtown runs between $45 and $55 and takes about 40 minutes – if you hit the traffic right. A more affordable option is the Airport Express Shuttle to key downtown hotels. The one-way ride runs $23.95.
The first thing you need to know about Pearson from a business perspective is that it’s among the growing list of enlightened airports where WiFi is free. The second is that you need be neither a premium passenger nor tethered to a particular carrier or airline alliance to get into one of YYZ’s four Plaza Premium Lounges. The price is $30 to gain admission to a couple of hours of serenity. The Terminal 1 international lounge is at the end of Pier F, Level 3, near Gate E77. The Terminal 1 domestic enclave is also on Level 3, this time near domestic security screening. In Terminal 3 you’ll find the international lounge just across from Gate 33, and the domestic one just past Gate B24.
Toronto Pearson is one of those relatively rare airports blessed with a legitimate “in-airport” hotel. The name says it all: Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Toronto International Airport. There’s direct indoor
access from Terminal 3. This Sheraton comes complete with a 24-hour fitness center and indoor pool to work out the kinks after those long transoceanic flights.
Food, Glorious Food
If your T&E budget doesn’t rate an up front seat in the pointy end of the plane, at least you don’t have go hungry. If you’re traveling intra-Canada out of Pearson check out Boccone Pronto in Terminal 1. The guy who runs the place, restaurateur and award-winning author Massimo Capra, knows what he’s doing. Massimo is a local celeb of sorts, with restaurants such as Mistura and Sopra Upper Lounge, as well as the Rainbow Room in nearby Niagara Falls. Boccone Pronto is, as the name implies, a grab-and-go sort of place, but the food is superb. You’ll find Boccone Pronto near Gate F61.
More widely, you can order up food from a number of chef-driven eateries at the airport using iPads that are integrated into restaurant areas of Terminals 1 and 3, including Heirloom in Terminal 1. One option there is the Detox Salad, a healthy affair loaded with stuff that’s good for you.
Toronto is a techie town, and the aura extends to the airport. In addition to ordering food via iPad you can also peruse a pair of iStore locations in the airport. There’s one store each in Terminal 1 and 3. Laptops, tablets, e-readers and the like from companies such as Apple, Sony and such live there. The newest iStore is in Terminal 3, near domestic gate B26.
Meanwhile, Back at Billy Bishop
What you can’t do at Pearson is get to the airport via ferryboat. At Billy Bishop, you can. It’s surely one of the shortest water crossings in existence.YTZ, you see, is actually out on an island. More prosaically you can grab a cab, take a streetcar, ride a shuttle or even bike to the pocketport. Come the spring of 2014, fliers will have another option: an 800-foot pedestrian tunnel connecting YTZ to the mainland.
Billy Bishop is consummately convenient. The only things missing (so far) is pre-clearance for flights to the United States, and jet service. Otherwise YTZ is the template for what a small, business traveler-oriented airport should be.
And so it’s your choice: Pearson or Billy Bishop. The former links you to the wider world, the other would very much like to expand its reach. BT
Toronto City Centre Airport
Toronto Pearson International