Regional airport aims to entice new airlines with exclusive routes
BRESLAU — The Region of Waterloo International Airport will start offering exclusive rights to fly to new destinations out of Breslau, in a bid to attract more airlines, in particular fledgling lowcost carriers.
The region announced Friday it’s putting out a call for proposals from Canadian carriers interested in two-year exclusive access to a specific route.
“That will give the airline a chance to build its market and achieve success before it’s subject to direct competition on that route,” said Rod Regier, the region’s commissioner for planning and development.
“We want to create a situation where a carrier, particularly a new airline, has maximum opportunity to succeed in our market.”
He said the region is excited about the new strategy, but also cautiously optimistic it will boost the flights available locally.
“We also want to temper expectations here,” Regier said. “If we don’t get any proposals from this process, it will still set the stage for us to do this in the future.”
While the request for proposals opens in October and closes in January, the region will continue to consider bids for time-limited exclusive route rights.
“It’s the addition of another tool to recruit new air service,” Regier said.
He said the region’s airport is the only one in Canada — other than Billy Bishop in Toronto — that restricts access to carriers, a relatively new and unique concept in Canada. Government-owned airports can’t limit service.
“We can do it because we’re owned by a municipality,” Regier said.
The region has been in discussion with all of the new startup airlines, including ultra-lowcost carrier Canada Jetlines.
Jetlines announced earlier this week it would fly out of Hamilton when it launches next summer, serving markets in Canada, the United States and Mexico.
“They’re aware of the process we’re launching,” Regier said. “They’re certainly interested in our airport.”
Waterloo Regional Coun. Tom Galloway said the new policy will give a leg up to new airlines trying to start up “in a very competitive and volatile environment,” or any airline that wants to start a new route.
“They see this exclusivity matter as something really attractive to them,” Galloway said. “It does give them some stability and certainty.”
The evaluation process will favour airlines with proposals for multiple routes, that base aircraft in Breslau, and establish headquarters and other operations or activities in the region.
“We may get some response, we may not,” Galloway said.
A number of ultra-low-cost airlines started emerging in the past year, in part due to the Canadian government relaxing foreign ownership restrictions in an effort to encourage the entry of new airlines into the market and create more affordable air options for Canadian travellers.
Canada is currently the only country among the G7 countries that does not have an ultra-lowcost operator.
“They’re all jockeying to enter this market and of course the market is ready,” Regier said. “It’s an opportunity for the Canadian air passenger.”
The Breslau airport’s primary catchment area, in a 35-kilometre radius, generates about 2.5 million passengers annually, 95 per cent flying through Toronto Pearson, Hamilton, Toronto Billy Bishop, Buffalo, Detroit or London airports.
“We’re getting very little of that through our own airport,” Regier said.