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Port authority slams WestJet CEO over Billy Bishop comment

WestJet chief executive officer Gregg Saretsky would “like to have the opportunity” to fly Boeing 737 jets out of Billy Bishop Airport.

WestJet

The Toronto Port Authority has slammed WestJet chief executive officer Gregg Saretsky for saying he wants slots to fly out of Billy Bishop Airport, arguing that the airline has never actually contacted the authority for a slot.

"We are delighted WestJet is interested in offering service from the popular Billy Bishop Airport, but find their approach through the media curious," TPA president Geoff Wilson said in a statement.

Even though WestJet declined in 2009 to bid for a slot when they were available, he said, the "TPA continues to hear rumours about WestJet's alleged interest in utilizing Billy Bishop at some point in the future," he said.

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Mr. Wilson's comments come in response to an interview Mr. Saretsky gave to Bloomberg News this week, saying he would "like to have the opportunity" to fly Boeing 737 jets out of Billy Bishop.

According to the TPA, even if WestJet is interested, no slots are currently available. "This will not change next year, should Toronto City Council remove the current ban on commercial jets at Billy Bishop," TPA chairman Mark McQueen said. "There's no room at the inn."

A spokesperson for WestJet declined to comment on the TPA statement.

Mr. Saretsky's comments touched off a nerve with Councillor Adam Vaughan, who is in the process of fighting a proposal from Porter Airlines to expand Billy Bishop and to fly Bombardier Inc. C Series planes out of that airport.

"Once you open up to [Porter CEO Robert] Deluce's jets, you open up to WestJet, Air Canada – and any other carrier who has access to Canada has a right to land and use the international airport," he said Wednesday.

"Everyone gets a fair shot at it and there's no control. And you surrender the airport to something the size of the Ottawa International Airport."

Porter has 172 of the 202 slots at Billy Bishop, while Air Canada has the other 30. WestJet has none.

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The Boeing 737 Max, which is the plane ordered by both WestJet and Air Canada, has not flown yet, so it is not known if its new, more fuel-efficient engines will meet the noise requirements that so far have been one of the factors that have kept jets out of the skies above the Toronto Harbour.

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