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Air Canada Launches Regional Bus Connections

Canada's largest airline is adding regional bus connections from its hub at Toronto Pearson.

Air Canada will begin a pilot project with regional bus service between Toronto Pearson and John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport and the Region of Waterloo International Airport in May 2024, in partnership with Landline (Photo: Air Canada)

Air Canada is joining the trend of airlines offering regional bus service, with a newly announced partnership with coach operator Landline. The airline will start offering service between Toronto Pearson International Airport and two smaller airports nearby starting in May.

Air Canada and Landline’s New Bus Connections

The new bus service will connect Toronto Pearson with John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport and Region of Waterloo International Airport. Hamilton is situated just outside the Greater Toronto Area and the airport serves both the city itself and the surrounding region. Meanwhile, Region of Waterloo International Airport serves the Kitchener–Waterloo region, a metropolitan area in southern Ontario.

Both airports are approximately fifty miles away from Toronto Pearson, which translates to a driving time of under one hour without traffic. The bus service will only be offered as a connection to or from a flight at Toronto Pearson, meaning that travelers will not be able to book the bus trips as an individual segment.

Travelers departing from Hamilton or Kitchener–Waterloo can check in online or at new Air Canada check-in counters at the two airports. Bags can be checked at Hamiton or Kitchener–Waterloo and the bus will depart from the curb outside the check-in area. However, passengers connecting onto the buses after a flight arriving at Toronto Pearson will have to pick up their luggage at the baggage claim before proceeding to their bus.

The buses will be operated by Landline, an American company that specializes in air-to-ground connections. The Canadian-made coaches will have 36 reclining leather seats in a 2-1 configuration. Travelers will have in-seat power, a tray table, free Wi-Fi, and access to an onboard lavatory.

Air Canada’s new multimodal service will begin as a pilot project in May of 2024. There will initially be six daily round trips between each of the smaller airports and Toronto Pearson.

Motor coach company Landline will operate Air Canada’s new regional bus connections using Canadian-made Prevost buses (Photo: Air Canada)

Regional Connectivity and Competition

Although Landline buses have been used to replace aircraft on some regional routes in the United States, Air Canada currently does not have service to either Hamilton or Kitchener–Waterloo. Air Canada previously operated flights between Hamilton and Montreal but axed the route in 2019 due to low sales.

Air Canada will therefore be entering markets that are currently occupied by some of its smaller competitors. Flair Airlines has a strong presence in Kitchener–Waterloo, while Sunwing and WestJet – and previously Swoop – also serve both airports. Hamilton is also served by Air Transat and Icelandic low-cost carrier PLAY, which operates up to seven flights per week to Reykjavík.

It is already common for residents across southern Ontario to fly out of Toronto Pearson. However, the newfound convenience of the bus connections could stimulate new demand among potential travelers. Air Canada’s new connecting service to these two airports is also set to tap into the pool of travelers who would otherwise choose to fly out of their regional airports with a competing airline.

“Every day, thousands of customers face a stressful, time consuming journey from Hamilton and Waterloo Region to Toronto Pearson airport,” said Nick Johnson, Vice President, Commercial for Landline in a press release. “Customers will love letting Landline and Air Canada do the driving for them, enjoying a connected experience while relaxing on one of our luxury motorcoaches.”

Post-Pandemic Growth

Many smaller regional airports throughout the United States lost or saw reduced air service as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequent cost-cutting measures and staffing shortages have led airlines to reduce regional flying.

Canadian airports have not been immune to these challenges as well. Passenger traffic at John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport was growing rapidly before the pandemic, rising from 312,839 passengers in 2016 to 955,373 passengers in 2019. The airport saw 645,789 passengers in 2022 and 2023 figures are expected to be higher when they are released.

Meanwhile, Region of Waterloo International Airport had its busiest year ever in 2023, soaring well above pre-pandemic figures. 445,312 passengers traveled through the airport in 2023, compared to 76,943 in 2019 and 127,824 in 2016. This post-pandemic growth has largely been fueled by Flair Airlines, which began service at the airport in 2021. Flair now serves over a dozen domestic and international destinations from the airport.

“Air Canada is focused on improving regional services and through this innovative partnership with The Landline Company, we are connecting communities and extending our network by offering customers a convenient, stress-free multimodal option,” Air Canada’s Vice President of Network Planning, North America, and Scheduling, Alexandre Lefevre, said in a press release.

Landline’s Steady and Ambitious Growth

Since it began its first airline partnership with Sun Country Airlines in 2019, Landline has grown steadily over the coming years. The Colorado-based company now operates regional bus connections for United Airlines out of Denver and Newark, and for American Airlines out of Philadelphia. Air Canada will be its first international partner.

Landline’s largest partnership is with American Airlines (Photo: Landline)

The company has thrived in the post-pandemic world where airlines are seeking to balance connectivity with their staffing and regional capacity constraints. In 2023, Landline was also approved for airside-to-airside operations at certain airports in the United States, improving the connecting experience.

Andrew Chen

Author

  • Andrew Chen

    Andrew is a lifelong lover of aviation and travel. He has flown all over the world and is fascinated by the workings of the air travel industry. As a private pilot and glider pilot who has worked with airlines, airports and other industry stakeholders, he is always excited to share his passion for aviation with others. In addition to being a writer, he also hosts Flying Smarter, an educational travel podcast that explores the complex world of air travel to help listeners become better-informed and savvier travelers.

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