Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport: a Breath of Fresh Air for Chaotic Travel Times

Toronto’s Island Airport – YTZ
Toronto’s Island Airport – YTZ

I hadn’t flown since late 2019 and had listened with dread to the reports of life and lineups at YYZ.

Luckily in Toronto, I had an airport stress workaround: I booked my flight to YHZ from YTZ. Located on an island less than 3 km from the heart of downtown, Billy Bishop Airport is home to Porter Airlines (PD) and an increasing number of AC flights.

How does it work, flying out of an island? Porter offers a complimentary shuttle service from the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in the heart of downtown and adjacent to Union Station with its subway, VIA and commuter train services. Depending on traffic, that takes about 15 minutes.

The view from the free, 2-minute ferry towards YTZ land terminal and city skyline
The view from the free, 2-minute ferry towards YTZ land terminal and city skyline

Or clients can arrive by car at YTZ’s compact facility on the “mainland” and have the option of rolling their luggage to the island through a pedestrian-only tunnel, or take a standing-room ferry over. As it was a beautiful morning I opted for the 2 minute ferry, which is free, operates every 15 minutes and, as a bonus, affords stunning views of the city skyline. My total travel time from drop off to inside the YTZ terminal? Less than 6 minutes.

Interior of the ferry
Interior of the ferry

Once there, a quick bag-drop service was offered at the plentiful Porter counters and passage through security was painless and line-up free (full disclosure: this was Sunday morning 19JUN). There is only one “departure area” in the terminal with several gates, a coffee shop, bar and magazine/candy store. There’s lots of comfy seating plus communal work stations. The atmosphere was relaxed and convivial and far from stressful.

Departure lounge for all flights, all carriers
Departure lounge for all flights, all carriers

“I love flying out of the Island,” my seatmate on the flight told me. “This is my 3rd Porter flight in 2 months and I’d choose them any time: it’s all so easy. And, as a bonus, your bags are right there at the carousel when you arrive.” Which was certainly the case at YHZ.

The flight was on a Dehavilland Dash 8-400 turboprop, one of 29 operated by Porter. The aircraft accommodates 78 pax in a 2+2 configuration, at a 30” seat pitch.

Surely one of the most interesting views: taxi-ing to takeoff at YTZ!
Surely one of the most interesting views: taxi-ing to takeoff at YTZ!

Porter inflight crews serve light snacks (almonds, chips) and a range of complimentary beverages such as coffee, soft drinks and Canadian wines and beers.

In April this year, passenger volumes at YTZ reached more than 100,000, which was the highest number in a single month since the pandemic began. It’s clear that the “little airport that could” has found a niche with leisure and business travellers who are looking for more convenience – and way less stress.

Martha Chapman

Columnist

An OJ columnist since 2006, Martha can often be seen On The Town covering industry events. Known to all in the biz, Martha has worked her entire career in travel, beginning as a teenaged hotel receptionist in Bermuda.

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