May 19, 2010 / 10:34 PM / in 7 years

Two airlines apply for Toronto city airport slots

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Two airlines have applied to start flying out of the Toronto city center airport, its owner said on Wednesday, a convenient hub for business travelers that is now serviced solely by upstart Porter Airlines.

The Toronto Port Authority, which owns and operates the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, did not name the applicants but analysts said they are likely Air Canada, the country’s biggest carrier, and Houston-based Continental Airlines Inc.

Continental was not immediately available for comment.

An Air Canada spokeswoman said the airline had nothing to add to a March 29 statement in which it said it had filed a request to resume service at the airport initially with 15 round trips a day to both Ottawa and Montreal and seven a day to Newark, New Jersey.

Air Canada has been vocal about wanting to secure a “fair” number of take-off and landing slots at the airport, which is just minutes from the downtown financial district compared with a 45-minute drive to much larger Pearson international airport.

Canada’s biggest airline filed a lawsuit in federal court against the port authority in February, alleging it has given Porter monopolistic use of a public facility and demanding fair access.

Air Canada’s regional partner Jazz Air used to service the airport but was evicted in 2006 by a company controlled by Porter’s chief executive.

Continental, which plans to merge with UAL Corp’s United, may want the slots to help it reclaim traffic through the Newark airport, said Robert Kokonis, managing director of airline consulting firm, AirTrav Inc.

“It is a compelling business opportunity to improve their Newark hub to Europe, throughout the United States and to Central and South America,” Kokonis said.

The two proposals are now being reviewed, and if they meet the necessary criteria, will be further evaluated by ACL, an UK-based independent airline consultancy firm, the port authority said in a statement. It gave no timeline.

Porter, a small, three-and-a-half-year-old regional airline, has built a successful business and stolen market share from bigger rivals through its universal business class service and the airport’s convenient location.

Porter, which flies mostly business travelers on short-haul flights in eastern Canada and the United States, is in the middle of a roadshow to market its shares ahead of a public stock offering.

Editing by Carol Bishopric

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