A U.S. Customs pre-clearance facility scheduled to open at Toronto Island Airport in 2023 will help boost passenger traffic by 40 percent and provide travelers with access to new destinations, including the airport. New York LaGuardia, airport officials told Toronto City Hall.
Gene Cabral, executive vice president of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, told councilors Wednesday that the long-awaited U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility could be ready to open in 18 to 24 months, pending approval of the government.
The pre-authorization system allows US-bound travelers to go through border security before boarding their plane, and would give airlines operating out of Billy Bishop the opportunity to expand routes to US airports where they are located. requires prior authorization.
Airlines departing from Billy Bishop, such as Porter Airlines, would have access to airports such as LaGuardia in New York City or O’Hare in Chicago.
In a report released last week, Nieuport Aviation, the company that owns Billy Bishop Airport, said it expects total passenger traffic to increase from 3.3 million in 2022 to 4.6 million in 2023 with the inclusion of a pre-clearance facility.
By 2025, the airport aims to expand its list of destinations to include Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Raleigh, Baltimore, Atlanta, Detroit, Nashville and Pittsburgh.
The pre-authorization facility “is one of our key priorities,” Cabral told the city’s Economic and Community Development Committee. “Not only to bring in new destinations, but also to improve security measures and increase customer comfort for those heading to the US.”
Halifax Stanfield International Airport saw a 29 percent increase in cross-border passengers when it added pre-clearance facilities, according to a study by Nieuport and York Aviation, a consulting firm. (Dublin International Airport saw a 20 percent increase in passengers arriving in the US after adding a pre-clearance facility.)
While Toronto locals may view the facility as something that will make their visits to the US easier, Nieuport says the real financial reward will be the additional travelers coming the other way.
“We think it’s driving the tourism economy here in Toronto,” Nieuport CEO Neil Pakey told council members on Wednesday.
The airport has faced a number of funding and regulatory hurdles in its efforts to build the pre-clearance facility, first proposed by the conservative federal government under Stephen Harper.
In 2016, Canada and the US signed an agreement that allows travelers to go through US customs at pre-clearance zones at Canadian airports before crossing the border. However, most airports had to cover the operating costs of the facilities themselves.
Mike Arnot, New York-based aviation consultant and former policy advisor to Canada’s Minister of Commerce, has estimated the cost at approximately $ 10 million per year for Billy Bishop.
To date, the federal government has not publicly announced any funding to support preauthorization operations at Billy Bishop.
The airport has not disclosed the source of its funding for the pre-clearance facility, estimated at $ 20 million not including operating costs, although it will likely come from a mix of public and private stakeholders.
Despite the anticipated increase in traffic, the airport’s ability to meet market demand is still limited by flight limits imposed by Ports Toronto, according to a report released by Nieuport last week.
There are 246 slots available per day, for flights arriving and departing from the airport. “At this point, passenger volumes stabilize due to full use of available spaces,” according to the report.
In the report, Nieuport said the pre-clearance facility is one of several “infrastructure investments” totaling $ 69 million aimed at improving airport arrivals and departures.
The projected increase in passenger traffic for 2023 also marks a 60 percent increase from the 2.8 million passengers who passed through the airport in 2019.
The increase will have a net impact of $ 4.8 billion on annual GDP by 2025, according to the report.