By Kevin Donovan, Chief Investigative Reporter | Sat., May 30, 2020
A last-minute reprieve with a favourable rent deal will keep the air ambulance service Ornge flying out of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport during the pandemic, officials say.
Ornge’s annual rent at the downtown airport has been reset by landlord Ports Toronto to roughly $200,000 a year. It was a whopping $5 million for the three-month period of March, April and May because Ornge had to cover all airport costs after Porter Airlines and Air Canada ceased flying from the island.
The provincial health ministry, which funds Ornge ($204 million annually), paid that bill to keep the airport open. Now, at least for the time being, the annual rent is back to normal.
“It is vital that Ornge maintains operations (at Billy Bishop) as it is a key patient transport hub providing quick access to trauma hospitals,” said Hayley Chazan, a spokesperson for provincial health minister Christine Elliott.
Ports Toronto and the ministry are still discussing terms going forward. Both parties are hoping normal airport operations will resume later this summer.
“We are exceedingly proud to have Ornge based at Billy Bishop Airport and are committed to do whatever we can, within our power, to keep Ornge at Billy Bishop Airport and return the airport itself to strength as soon as is possible and appropriate,” said Deborah Wilson, a Ports Toronto spokesperson.
Ornge operates two full-time helicopter crews out of Billy Bishop, and also flies fixed-wing aircraft from the island airport.
Several weeks ago, the Star revealed an unusual financial arrangement had arisen when Porter and Air Canada pulled out of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport in March due to the global pandemic. Only one tenant — the provincially funded Ornge — was left to keep the lights on. For three months, that amounted to close to $5 million.
TORONTO, May 13, 2020 /CNW/ – Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport has once again been ranked among the world’s best by the Skytrax World Airport Awards, a global benchmark of airport excellence voted on by nearly 14 million passengers worldwide. Ranking seventh in two categories – Best Airports in North America and World’s Best Airports (under five million passengers category) – this is the seventh consecutive year that Billy Bishop Airport has been recognized as one of the world’s top airports by the prestigious awards.
The 2020 Awards are based on millions of airport survey questionnaires completed in 2019 by more than 100 different nationalities of air travellers, covering 550 airports worldwide. In the independent survey, passengers continued to rank Billy Bishop Airport highly across 39 key performance indicators, including fast check-in times, ease of access to the terminal, and the courtesy and efficiency of airport staff.
“As passengers, airlines and airports collectively adapt to the new realities of air travel in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, it is incredibly gratifying to once again be named as one of the world’s best by the Skytrax World Airport Awards,” said Geoffrey Wilson, CEO of PortsToronto, owner and operator of Billy Bishop Airport. “To be recognized for the seventh consecutive year in the passenger-driven Skytrax awards reinforces that Billy Bishop Airport – one of the world’s only walkable, bike-able airports with an award-winning scenic approach – is striking a positive chord with passengers. With international accolades such as these driving us to stay the course and excel despite trying times, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport will carry on its 80-year history of enabling business, facilitating tourism and providing a superior travel experience directly into the heart of Canada’s largest city.”
Billy Bishop Airport has won a series of passenger-driven awards over the last several years including being named one of the top airports globally and in North America by Airports Council International’s (ACI) Airport Service Quality Awards. Billy Bishop Airport has also been ranked as the fourth Best International Airport by Condé Nast Traveler and has ranked in the top ten on Private Fly’s list for Most Scenic Airport Approaches in the world for five consecutive years.
For more information on Skytrax World Airport Awards 2020 click here.
By Kevin Donovan, Chief Investigative Reporter, Sat., May 9, 2020
When Porter Airlines and Air Canada pulled out of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport in March due to the global pandemic, that left just one tenant to keep the lights on.
ORNGE Air Ambulance, the provincial agency charged with transporting the sick and injured — including hundreds of COVID-19 patients — was alone at the island airport.
While Ontario’s Ministry of Health has provided $5 million emergency funding to keep ORNGE’s base on the island open, that money runs out at the end of May.
“Our hope and our plan is to stay at Billy Bishop but we are looking at contingencies,” said Dr. Homer Tien, president and chief executive officer of ORNGE. “The major one we are looking at is Buttonville.” A team of ORNGE managers toured Buttonville Airport’s hangars north of Toronto on Saturday. Costly renovations will be required if they move the helicopter teams and maintenance systems there.
Meanwhile, ORNGE’s brightly coloured air ambulances continue to fly out of the Toronto’s island airport. ORNGE has moved 325 COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 patients, along with hundreds of other patients who required emergency transport. ORNGE is also flying patient test samples to testing centres.
Tien was only three months into his job as ORNGE president (he was formerly its medical director) when the pandemic caused airlines that paid the majority of the Billy Bishop Airport bills to cease operations. Tien was taken aback when he learned that ORNGE was on the hook for roughly $1.7 million a month. Normally, ORNGE’s monthly rent is roughly $200,000.
Tien, a surgeon, has worked for the Canadian Forces and Sunnybrook Hospital. He had just taken over the helm at the provincial air ambulance agency in December. Now it was March and the world around him seemed to be exploding. “They didn’t put COVID in my contract,” Tien says wryly. He’s quite different than Dr. Chris Mazza, the first ORNGE CEO who lost his job in a financial and governmental scandal exposed by a series of Toronto Star stories almost a decade ago. Where Mazza was mercurial, Tien is calm.
“I was initially caught off guard,” said Tien. “But when you watch the daily news and see what is happening economically, that is basically happening for all businesses. Aviation needs help particularly,” said Tien. He, the Ministry of Health and Ports Toronto have been in discussions ever since.
Ports Toronto is a federal business enterprise that receives no public funding and must break even each year to survive. Billy Bishop Airport is one of Ports Toronto’s business operations.
Ontario’s Ministry of Health has for years leased hangar space for ORNGE, paying Ports Toronto about $200,000 a month (no party will provide the exact amount). Now, ORNGE, an agency of the province of Ontario, receives $204 million annually to operate air and land ambulance services. But that does not cover a dramatic rent increase.
For Billy Bishop to stay open, its CEO Geoffrey Wilson explains that federal regulations meant they had to continue to run the ferry to the island airport, keep the tunnel open, provide security and other services.
“We lost 95 per cent of our revenue overnight,” said Wilson, who would not say if either Air Canada or Porter Airlines continues to pay any rent at all. “Our overhead didn’t go away but our revenues went away.”
Wilson said the Ministry of Health acted swiftly and provided just under $5 million to cover March, April and May expenses for Billy Bishop.
In a letter written to ORNGE by Ontario’s Minister of Health Christine Elliott, the minister sets out the terms. “The Ministry of Health will provide ORNGE up to $4,950,000 in one-time funding so it can continue to deliver services out of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport for the period from March 1 to June 1, 2020,” Elliott wrote.
After the letter was sent, the three parties continued to negotiate and agreed that the monthly payment would be reduced from the early estimate of just under $1.7 million a month to $1.4 million, meaning that $800,000 will be refunded to the province.
ORNGE operates two full-time helicopter crews out of Billy Bishop. It also flies “fixed wing” aircraft out of Billy Bishop — where helicopters do emergency pick ups, landing patients at hospital heli pads, fixed wing planes transport patients from smaller to larger hospitals.
“Obviously, air ambulance in the time of COVID is of incredible importance for transporting all patients including COVID patients,” said ORNGE’s Tien. ORNGE’s next closest air bases are in London, Ont., Sudbury and Ottawa. Billy Bishop has the highest volume of Ornge helicopter flights in Ontario. In the most recent one-year period, ORNGE had 1,460 helicopter arrivals and departures out of Billy Bishop, and 1,101 medivac flights.
Tien said his hope is that ORNGE stays at Billy Bishop, though a temporary base at Buttonville would be fine since most helicopter flights head north, pick up a patient and fly the patient to a Toronto hospital for emergency treatment.
“We are talking to Ports Toronto again and they have been very good with us. Maintaining air ambulance is the prime directive here,” said Tien. Commercial airlines are hoping to return to Billy Bishop by the summer but nothing is certain. “No one knows how long this will continue.”
From his viewpoint, Ports Toronto’s Wilson said he is pleased that ORNGE is still at Billy Bishop and he credits Ontario Ministry of Health for being proactive in March.
“I think (the ministry) saw Billy Bishop as a vulnerability in their life saving system in the early days of COVID and were asking themselves the question, ‘What if?’ ” Wilson said.
“They asked the hard question: ‘Are you in a position where you are going to have to close?’ We said we don’t know, but we don’t know how we are going to pay the bills and stay open and we don’t know how long it is going to last. And so they addressed it with 90-day emergency funding. And that’s where we are.”
Over at ORNGE, air crew and paramedics interviewed by the Star say that the already stressful work of air ambulance missions is more difficult, given the requirements of wearing personal protective equipment.
Tien said he is thankful that, to date, no ORNGE air crew or paramedics have tested positive.
“I don’t have any wood around here,” said Tien. “But I am very suspicious so I am going to tap on my head. But no, we have not had any (staff) who have tested positive.”
From: Department of Finance Canada ~ 30 March 2020
The Government of Canada recognizes the unprecedented disruption to the air transportation sector resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, air passenger traffic has declined significantly as governments around the world impose border restrictions and advise their citizens to avoid unnecessary travel as a measure to slow the progression of the disease.
Support to Airports
Airports rely on fees paid by airlines and passengers to sustain their operations. As passenger traffic declines, airports are seeing their revenues fall, while at the same time they need to ensure safe operations.
To help airports reduce cost pressures and preserve cash flow as they deal with the effects of COVID-19 on their revenue, the government is waiving rents paid on ground leases for the 21 airport authorities that form part of the National Airport System and that pay rent to the government. The government will waive rent payments for March 2020 through December 2020. The government is also providing comparable treatment for PortsToronto, which operates Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, by waiving payments made to the federal government on revenues generated by the airport. This will provide relief up to $331.4 million, reflecting payments in the same period of 2018.
By waiving ground lease payments, the government is helping these airport authorities to preserve cash flow during the disruption. This will allow them to redeploy cash to help maintain their operations and to support recovery strategies. This approach is consistent with actions taken to support the sector during previous major disruptions, such as the SARS outbreak in 2003.
The 21 National Airport System airport authorities covered by this measure are not-for-profit, non-share capital corporations that pay rents to operate airports in Canada under long-term leases with Transport Canada. Rents are based on revenues earned from operating the airports and related lands, which are owned by the government.
The 21 airport authorities that will receive relief are:
St. John’s International Airport Authority
Gander International Airport Authority Inc.
Halifax International Airport Authority
Charlottetown Airport Authority Inc.
Saint John Airport Inc.
Greater Moncton International Airport Authority Inc.
Fredericton International Airport Authority
Aéroport de Québec Inc.
Aéroports de Montréal
Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport Authority
Greater Toronto Airports Authority
Greater London International Airports Authority
Thunder Bay International Airports Inc.
Winnipeg Airports Authority Inc.
Regina Airport Authority
Saskatoon Airport Authority
Edmonton Regional Airports Authority
Calgary Airport Authority
Prince George Airport Authority Inc.
Vancouver International Airport Authority
Victoria Airport Authority.
PortsToronto operates the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and pays an annual charge to Transport Canada based on the revenues it earns under the terms of its letters patent. PortsToronto revenues include those generated from operating Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.
Millions of Torontonians living and working under the flight path of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport may have noticed a big difference recently in the skies above them.
The number of flights into and out of Pearson has been cut by more than 50 per cent over the past couple of weeks, with further grim cuts coming soon because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Air traffic controllers at Pearson, Canada’s busiest airport, usually handle about 1,100 air movements a day, according to data published by the airport. Following air traffic flows on FlightAware.com and FlightRadar.com, it appears that because of bans on travel between Canada and the U.S. and the lack of demand caused by the new coronavirus, there were only about 500 air movements on Wednesday.
The peak morning and afternoon rush hours now have so few flights that the radar picture looks like the usual situation 1 a.m. Additional deep service cuts announced by Canadian and U.S. carriers suggest that the number of flights will drop sharply again by the end of March.
“It’s really eerie,” said an air traffic controller at Pearson airport.
Official flight figures for February and March were still being collated, but “it is well known that the aviation industry has seen air traffic on the whole decrease significantly,” said Brian Boudreau, manager of media relations from Nav Canada, which manages airspace across the country.
U.S. air traffic control centres have had to temporarily suspend flights or have them overseen from backup facilities because several air traffic controllers have become infected with the new coronavirus.
While not specifically saying that no Canadian air traffic controllers had fallen ill with the virus, Boudreau said all of its operations are functioning without interruption.
“We do not anticipate disruptions given the measures we’ve taken in preparation for, and in response to COVID-19,” Boudreau said. “Nav Canada is at a high degree of readiness, with contingency plans in place to ensure the continued safety of Canadian skies.”
What has been happening at Toronto Pearson and all other Canadian airports — as can be seen on flight tracking websites — is a stark illustration of why the International Air Transportation Association announced Wednesday that its 290 member airlines would likely lose $252 billion this year.
As a result of the global pandemic, thousands of Canadian aviation workers are being laid off and airlines have been in talks with Ottawa about emergency financial assistance. Without them, airline executives have said they will fail.
This will cause unpredictable but serious consequences for the Canadian economy unless the aviation industry gets hundreds of millions of dollars in urgent relief that it has been seeking.
While many Canadian businesses are appealing for help, if Canada’s aviation industry falters it would have serious repercussions. That’s because the country’s size, and how thinly the population is spread out, make the economy especially dependent on aviation to fly people and critical cargo around.
The staggering knock-on effects of the disease on the aviation industry can be vividly seen by anyone driving past Kitchener/Waterloo airport. Sunwing Airlines Inc. of Etobicoke, Ont., has parked 13 Boeing 737s there that would normally be flying flat out at this time of year to get Canadian snowbirds to and from sunny destinations in the U.S., the Caribbean and Mexico. All 470 Sunwing pilots were laid off on Monday.
“We had to close one of our runways to make space for the Sunwing aircraft,” said Kitchener Waterloo’s airport manager, Chris Wood. “It is really unfortunate that this is creating huge problems for our industry but we are here to help in any way we can.
“We had conversations with all the carriers last week. Looks like they are all finding homes for their aircraft, typically as close to their maintenance facilities as possible.”
Toronto’s island Billy Bishop airport has also closed one of its runways to park some of Porter Airlines’ fleet of 29 Q-400 aircraft, which stopped flying last Friday. Transat, which is based in Montreal, is winding down all its operations and won’t resume them for at least five weeks.
WestJet Airlines announced this week that it was suspending all international flights and would be cutting 6,900 jobs from its workforce of about 14,000 through voluntary and involuntary layoffs.
It has grounded 126 of its aircraft and parked them at 10 Canadian airports from Terrace, B.C., to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and Halifax, accordingly. The bulk of the Calgary-based carrier’s jets are there or at Toronto’s Pearson, Westjet said in an email Thursday, though some of the aircraft might still be repositioned.
A substantial number of its overwhelmingly Boeing fleet is also in Vancouver, Kelowna or Edmonton. Ten more of them are parked at an airfield in Arizona between Phoenix and Tucson, where there is less corrosion because of the desert air.
Speaking from Geneva on Wednesday, the head of the International Air Transport Association, Alexandre de Juniac, said he expects that because of the new coronavirus, airlines will require $200 billion in emergency government aid to remain solvent. The British government said this week that it would not bail out airlines. However, “as a last resort,” it might speak with some carriers on an individual basis.
The North American aviation industry has generated about two-thirds of the industry’s global profits in recent years. But since the novel coronavirus seized global attention when it was first detected in December, shares in the four leading U.S. carriers have lost between 40 per cent and 66 per cent of their value. The airlines have made an urgent appeal for $50 billion in emergency funding to avoid bankruptcy.
Air Canada is suspending almost all international flights and laying off 60 per cent of its cabin crew.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which are the hubs for international aviation giants Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airlines, announced that effective Wednesday night, all flights to and from those Gulf sheikdoms would be suspended for at least two weeks.
Singapore Airlines, which often wins awards for having the best customer service, cut 96 per cent of its flights on Wednesday and grounded all but 11 of its 196 aircraft. KLM announced this week that it was slashing 90 per cent of its flights.
Hong Kong Express, which is owned by Cathay Pacific, went even further. It cancelled all flights until the end of April.
These actions followed steep flight cuts by Cathay Pacific and European carriers such as Lufthansa and British Airways. Qantas, the Australian carrier, has cut all international flights, laid off 20,000 of its 30,000 workers and arranged Wednesday for $1 billion in additional credit by using seven of its widebody jets as collateral.
Even worse than this tsunami of flight suspensions and appeals for aid, the aviation industry will still face immense challenges, whether or not a treatment or a vaccine for the new coronavirus is found. It is widely expected that few corporations will have much money to spend to fly large numbers of their executives around the world in the expensive business class seats that provide major carriers with much of their profit.
Nor, whenever the crisis ends, will large numbers of tourists have money to spend on exotic holidays. This, in turn, will lead to far fewer hotel and resort bookings for major corporations and small businesses that have had to close down most of their operations.
Particularly hard hit will be cruise ships. They will suffer from a double whammy of fewer passengers with money to spend and, perhaps fatally, because several cruise ships ended up becoming huge incubators for the virus, helping to spread the disease around the world.
Matthew Fisher is an international affairs columnist and foreign correspondent who has worked abroad for 35 years. You can follow him on Twitter at @mfisheroverseas
TORONTO, Jan. 15, 2020 /CNW/ – Just in time for spring break, Porter Airlines is resuming seasonal service to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, beginning March 4. Flights operate twice weekly until May 17, 2020, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Porter offers the only non-stop flights from Canada.
In just 2.5 hours, travellers are transported to Myrtle Beach, where the weather is as warm as its southern hospitality. Boasting miles of beautiful coastline, stunning sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean, and an abundance of attractions, Myrtle Beach is the perfect destination for the entire family.
Myrtle Beach is also an elite golf destination offering more than 100 courses in the area to challenge all skill levels. Local courses are known for their playability and being impeccably maintained.
Porter Escapes offers inclusive packages for flights, accommodations and activities.
Connecting flights are available via Toronto from numerous Porter destinations. Complete schedule details are available at www.flyporter.com.
TORONTO, Dec. 5, 2019 /CNW/ – Porter Airlines resumes seasonal service between Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and Mont-Tremblant International Airport on Dec. 6. Flights are available until March 30, 2020, with service up to four times weekly.
Reconnect with the joys of winter in Mont-Tremblant, Que., in as little as 70 minutes from downtown Toronto. Connecting flights are also available from numerous Porter locations in Canada and the U.S.
Located in the heart of the Laurentians, Mont-Tremblant is home to some of the country’s best winter attractions. In addition to downhill skiing and snowboarding, winter in Tremblant offers an array of exhilarating outdoor activities such as dog sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. For those seeking a more relaxed pace, enjoy the serenity of a spa retreat, and dine or shop in the charming pedestrian village.
Mont Tremblant International Airport (MTIA) is offering Porter passengers a special promotion on lift tickets this ski season. Passengers receive two free weekday ski lift tickets when they arrive on a Sunday or Monday and depart on a Thursday or Friday. For full details, visit www.mtia.ca
BONITA SPRINGS, Fla., Dec. 5, 2019 /CNW/ — Flightdocs, a leading provider of maintenance tracking, flight operations, and inventory management software solutions for flight departments around the world, is expanding its international footprint with the opening of a permanent office in Toronto, Canada. “This expansion supports the Flightdocs’ strategic growth plan allowing for the strengthening of current customer relationships as well as expanding our global sales support coverage,” explained Rick Heine, CEO, Chairman.
Greg Heine, President of Flightdocs explains “the Canadian business aviation market has always been an important piece of our company’s long-term growth. Opening up a permanent location and bringing on experienced and motivated professionals allows us to focus our resources on existing customers while growing the Flightdocs brand within the country.”
As a Toronto native and licensed pilot, Alex Hess, National Sales Manager for Canada is looking forward to establishing Flightdocs as the premier service provider in Canada. “The product speaks for itself. Being able to bring a 21st century solution to Canadian operators opens the doors for expanded service and efficiencies. Being a fully cloud based solution with advanced and effective mobile capabilities positions Flightdocs as the best product for the unique and extensive needs of the Canadian business aviation market.”
The new Toronto office is conveniently located off Lake Shore Boulevard West and is within ten minutes of the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ) and the Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ).
First of Its Kind in Canada, Electric-Powered Ferry Will Significantly Reduce Airport GHG Emissions and Noise Impacts
TORONTO, Nov. 28, 2019 /CNW/ – PortsToronto, owner and operator of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, is proud to announce that the airport’s Marilyn Bell I passenger/vehicle ferry will be converted to electric-power. This innovative retrofit represents a unique technological advancement in the airport’s fleet as the vessel will be the first 100 per cent electric lithium-ion powered ferry in service in Canada. PortsToronto anticipates that the ferry’s retrofit will be complete by the end of 2020.
The vessel’s propulsion system will be entirely powered by battery and fueled by 100 per cent Bullfrog Power® renewable electricity, enabling the electric-ferry to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from the airport’s ferry operation. In addition to operating more efficiently and eliminating related air emissions, the retrofitted vessel will build on the airport’s award-winning Noise Management Program, as it will operate far more quietly, dramatically reducing related noise in the surrounding community.
As part of PortsToronto’s sustainability program, a phased approach to greening the airport’s ferry operations began in 2018 when the Marilyn Bell I was converted from diesel to bio-fuel, which resulted in the reduction of approximately 20 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions last year. The electric-powered ferry is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with ferry operations by 530 tonnes, dramatically reducing the airport’s carbon footprint and setting the organization on a clear path toward achieving PortsToronto’s overall emissions target.
“The retrofitting of the Marilyn Bell I to electric power clearly demonstrates how we can build a clean and efficient transportation system, create good jobs and protect the environment,” said the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport. “The Government of Canada commends PortsToronto for this initiative that will benefit Toronto communities and reduce our carbon footprint.”
“Converting the Billy Bishop Airport ferry to electric power is a clear indication of how serious we are in our commitment to the environment and maintaining balanced operations with the waterfront community in which we operate,” said Geoffrey Wilson, Chief Executive Officer, PortsToronto. “We are proud to invest in leading-edge, sustainable transportation infrastructure that will reduce PortsToronto’s overall emissions, which is a significant step toward our organization’s environmental objectives and in support of the Canadian Government’s 2030 emission reduction target.”
In compliance with PortsToronto’s Sustainable Procurement Policy, three Canadian companies that share PortsToronto’s vision for sustainable operations have been selected to collaborate on completing the ferry retrofit. As developers of the winning concept and proposal, St. Catharines-based leaders in marine electrical engineering Canal Marine & Industrial Inc. (CANAL) are the prime designers for this project. On board as the project naval architect is Concept Naval, Quebec-based naval architects and marine engineers, recognized for their innovative and customized solutions in Canada’s shipbuilding industry. PortsToronto has also engaged Nova Scotia-based E.Y.E marine consultants to assist with the implementation of the project.
“CANAL is proud to be delivering the first completely zero-emission Ro-Pax ferry in Canada,” said Shawn Balding, CANAL Commercial Director. “This is an important step in the evolution of the marine industry made possible by maturing advancements in energy storage and power and propulsion system design.”
The airport’s ferry operation not only transports passengers, airport staff and essential supplies to and from Billy Bishop Airport, but serves as a vital link for City of Toronto service vehicles to gain access to the Toronto Islands. The conversion of the airport ferry to electric-power is one of Billy Bishop Airport’s key capital projects and will cost approximately $2.9 million. This cost will be paid in full by PortsToronto through the Airport Improvement Fee. PortsToronto is a federal business enterprise that is financially self-sufficient and does not receive funding from any level of government.
The Marilyn Bell I is named for the Canadian icon who was the first person to cross Lake Ontario, and later the English Channel and Strait of Juan de Fuca.