Location, location, location: Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport

Billy Bishop

Though many Torontonians still refer to it as the Island Airport, Billy Bishop (YTZ) is its official name for the airport just minutes from downtown Toronto. Once the David to Pearson Airport’s Goliath, this is the little airport that grew – and plans to keep growing.

Apart from its manageable size, one of the airport’s biggest attractions is its location less than 3 km from downtown, usually a journey of eight minutes or so by complimentary shuttle.

Billy Bishop certainly had an interesting start: its first customers were the members of the Tommy Dorsey swing band coming to town to entertain visitors to the Canadian National Exhibition in 1939.

But the airport really made it onto travellers’ maps with the launch of Porter Airlines in 2006.  With its cheeky ads and stylish culture, Porter certainly raised the bar on service, particularly in the hotly-contested Toronto/Montreal/Ottawa triangle.  Not to be left in Porter’s dust, Air Canada started serving Billy Bishop in 2011.

One of the quirkiest aspects of the airport has been access. Located on an island, so far the transportation from the “mainland” has been by ferry, at 90 seconds perhaps the shortest scheduled service in history.  However work is now under way on a much-anticipated tunnel.  Airport authorities are coy as to its completion date, only saying it will be in spring 2015.  With its four moving sidewalks, the tunnel is anticipated to bring the travel time over to the island to just six minutes.  The ferry will continue to operate as it is necessary to move cars and vehicles back and forth to the island.

Meanwhile YTZ continues to grow and evolve and now features, for example, a duty free shop for transborder passengers.  There is a much-debated plan to bring jets to the island, which currently welcomes only turbo-prop aircraft. And Billy Bishop Airport, named for a Canadian World War I flying ace, continues to expand into the 21st century, welcoming over 2 million passengers each year