Canada Jet­lines plans to base Mon­treal op­er­a­tions at small St. Hu­bert air­port

Penticton Herald - - OKANAGAN-SIMILKAMEEN -

Dis­count air­line Canada Jet­lines Ltd. says it plans to base its Mon­treal op­er­a­tions in a cou­ple of years out of a small air­port that is un­der­go­ing an ex­pan­sion.

The Van­cou­ver-based com­pany hasn’t yet launched ser­vice, but it an­nounced Thurs­day a part­ner­ship with Mon­treal Saint-Hu­bert Longueuil Air­port to sup­port its ef­forts to build a low-cost sec­ondary air­port on the south shore of the city.

Canada Jet­lines CEO Javier Suarez says Mon­treal trav­ellers de­serve low-cost air travel op­tions that don’t re­quire them to cross the U.S. bor­der.

“Saint-Hu­bert is a short com­mute out of the down­town core of Mon­treal, and our pas­sen­gers will not only ben­e­fit from ul­tra-low air­fares, they will also have con­ve­nient ac­cess to a new pur­pose-built low-cost fa­cil­ity in Saint-Hu­bert,” he said in a news re­lease.

Saint-Hu­bert air­port is about a 15-minute drive from down­town Mon­treal and 32 kilo­me­tres from Mon­treal Pierre-El­liott Trudeau In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

The air­line is work­ing to­wards a launch next sum­mer and would seek to start Mon­treal ser­vice by early 2020. It will also fly to sec­ondary air­ports in Ab­bots­ford, Hamil­ton, as well as Hal­i­fax Stan­field In­ter­na­tional Air­port, of­fer­ing do­mes­tic ser­vice and win­ter flights to sun des­ti­na­tions. It plans to start with two Air­bus A320s and add four planes an­nu­ally.

Saint-Hu­bert air­port, which mainly serves pri­vate air­craft, re­cently up­graded its run­way, sup­ported by a $13-mil­lion fed­eral con­tri­bu­tion, that can ac­com­mo­date nar­row­body planes as big as the Boe­ing 737 or A320. It also plans to build a new pas­sen­ger ter­mi­nal.

“With this an­nounce­ment and this com­mit­ment we’re go­ing to have to fast-track some­thing,” said Jane Foyle, gen­eral man­ager of DASH-L, the non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that runs the Saint Hu­bert air­port.

“I think we can de­liver for 2020. If there’s in­ter­est to start faster we’re also look­ing at what we could use at the air­port at the mo­ment as a tem­po­rary type fa­cil­ity.”

Foyle has a vi­sion for Sain­tHu­bert join­ing a na­tional net­work of sec­ondary air­ports that of­fer lower fees to sup­port the Cana­dian ex­pan­sion of ul­tra low cost air­lines like Swoop and Flair Air­lines.

“If we had a net­work of ul­tra low cost air­ports across Canada, I think that’s what we want to be part of,” she said in an in­ter­view.

“Ab­bots­ford in B.C. is that al­ready. Hamil­ton is at that game too but their cost struc­ture might not be as flex­i­ble as ours will be. We’re go­ing to be fi­nan­cially at­trac­tive for air­lines to come here.”

Dis­count car­rier Flair Air­lines says it is re­view­ing op­tions for the Que­bec mar­ket and hasn’t made a firm com­mit­ment to any air­port in the prov­ince.

WestJet sub­sidiary Swoop said as its fleet in­creases to 10 next year it will be look­ing for mar­kets and air­ports for its 189-seat planes.

“This could po­ten­tially in­clude ser­vice to Que­bec, but I’m un­able to con­firm that for you at this time,” said spokes­woman Karen McIsaac.

Porter Air­lines spokesman Brad Cicero says the air­line based at Toronto Is­land’s Billy Bishop Air­port has no plans to change its Trudeau air­port-based ser­vice out of Mon­treal.

Foyle said cater­ing to ul­tra low cost car­ri­ers can be risky be­cause their suc­cess is un­proven in Canada. But she also hopes to of­fer flights to trans­port busi­ness peo­ple to Toronto, be a hub for re­gional ser­vice in Que­bec and at­tract travel air­lines like Sun­wing and Air Transat for flights south.

She said the main chal­lenge is to se­cure des­ig­nated air­port sta­tus that will pro­vide se­cu­rity screen­ing ser­vices from the Cana­dian Air Trans­port Se­cu­rity Au­thor­ity at an af­ford­able rate and ob­tain cus­toms and im­mi­gra­tion ser­vices from the Canada Bor­der Ser­vices Agency to of­fer trans­bor­der flights.

Foyle said Saint-Hu­bert air­port can also help in keep­ing Que­be­cers from cross­ing the U.S. bor­der to catch flights.

“We’re los­ing a lot of Cana­di­ans that are go­ing to Platts­burgh and Burling­ton to fly out of Amer­i­can air­ports and we would be strate­gi­cally lo­cated to try to get th­ese pas­sen­gers, th­ese Que­be­cers back and fly­ing out of our air­lines po­ten­tially and our air­port.”

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