February 26, 2010

Jetport lands Toronto flights

BETH QUIMBY

— By

Staff Writer

Soon you will be able to get from Portland to Toronto pronto.

Air Canada is starting up twice daily runs between the two cities this spring, allowing air travelers to make the trip in just under two hours.

''This is good for the region,'' said Paul Bradbury, director of the Portland International Airport.

The flights will start May 17 aboard a 19-passenger twin-engine turbo prop airplane. The new routes will increase the total number of direct destination flights out of the jetport to 14. Bradbury said landing Air Canada at the jetport is the latest sign that business is rebounding after a flat 2009.

The Air Canada service will also renew some of Portland's international-jetport status -- the jetport lost its only international direct flight in November when Starlink cancelled its run between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

The flights also allow Portland to retain a direct public-transit route to Canada. When Bay Ferries Ltd. announced last month that it was cancelling its high-speed ferry between Portland and Yarmouth, it appeared that a 40-year-old transit link between the city and Canada would be severed.

Some said the new air service might make Portland more attractive to business. The city already has some business links in Toronto. TD Bank N.A., headquartered in Portland and Cherry Hill, N.J., is owned by TD Bank Financial Group in Canada's largest city.

''Any place you can get to that is a major center from Portland nonstop is terrific,'' said Godfrey Wood, executive director of the Greater Portland Chamber of Commerce.

Air Canada is also adding six other U.S. destinations in an effort to solidify its position as the leading air carrier between Canada and the U.S., said Peter Fitzpatrick, company spokesman.

Air Canada is marketing Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Airport as a less-congested jumping off point to Asia or Europe than New York or Chicago.

Flights from Portland will leave at 6:30 a.m. and 5:10 p.m. and leave from Toronto at 3 and 8:30 p.m.

Tickets will cost $215 one-way and $528 round-trip. Fritzpatrick said initially the service will be offered in the spring and summer months but could be extended if demand is high.

Air Canada also offers service to Toronto from Manchester Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, N.H., and Logan Airport in Boston.

Maine tourism director Pat Eltman said the new service will generate tourism in Maine. Her office has been targeting the Toronto market, which is interested in Maine destinations. She said Outpost magazine, an outdoor magazine published in Toronto, just told her that it was planning to feature Camden's U.S. National Toboggan Championships in an upcoming issue.

She said the air service will also make it easier when attending marketing events in Toronto. Last year, it took a contingent from the Maine tourism office 18 hours to drive to Toronto during a snowstorm; the trip normally takes 13 hours.

''Canada is a big market for us,'' said Eltman.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

bquimby@pressherald.com

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