Southwestern Ontario airports could pick up slack from Pearson 'mega hub'
In this file photo, workers are seen at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Thursday, March 8, 2012. (Nathan Denette / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A group of southern Ontario airports say they’re banding together to ensure that the region reaches its full potential for air travel.
The Southern Ontario Airport Network, which was announced Monday, is comprised of 11 airports stretching from Windsor to Kingston. The group includes both Pearson International Airport and Region of Waterloo International Airport.
According to the group, southern Ontario is expected to be seeing 110 million air travel passengers and more than 1 million tonnes of air cargo per year by 2043. Both of those numbers are more than double the current levels.
“A single airport alone cannot meet all the region’s diverse demands,” a report released by the group reads, noting that southern Ontario’s capacity for air travel maxes out at 89 million passengers a year.
Additionally, the report forecasts Pearson turning into a ‘mega hub’ capable of handling 80 million passengers a year. Pearson’s current passenger load is 44 million people a year.
Without significant and concerted action to add more passenger, cargo and charter air service to other airports around southern Ontario, the report says, passengers will be dealing with overcrowded airports – and some of them will decide to drive to airports in places like Buffalo, Detroit or Ottawa instead.
“The cost of inaction is high,” the report says.
As for specific actions, the airport network is calling for more passenger and charter air service out of non-Pearson airports in southern Ontario over the next five years, as well as efforts to raise awareness of the importance of airports, to promote southern Ontario as a tourism and trade destination, and to collect data to better understand the future needs of the area for air travel.
The report specifically sites Waterloo Region’s airport as one of five in the network that has significant room for expansion, along with airports in London, Windsor, Hamilton and Kingston.
The region recently adopted a new master plan for the airport. It calls for new infrastructure to be built only when there is demand to warrant it.
According to the report, commute times to and from Pearson are expected to rise by an average of 25 per cent over the next 25 years.