The Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) announced at a press conference Wednesday that they had reached an agreement with Air Canada to provide seasonal, daily, nonstop flights to Canada’s largest airport, Toronto Pearson International, starting May 17, 2018 and going through Oct. 8, 2018.
“I’m kind of out of airport jokes. I’ve done this now so many times,” said Governor Gina Raimondo. “This is getting to be old hat and I love it.”
Raimondo may have been kidding, but the expansion of T.F. Green services in 2017 has been no joke indeed. The announcement with Air Canada marked the second international flight service to come to Rhode Island this year after Norwegian Air was announced in the spring and had its inaugural flight over the summer. In total, the airport has added 17 nonstop destinations this year – doubling the number of such routes – and now offers flights from five international airliners.
“It has truly been an exciting year for T.F. Green, and none of this could have been accomplished without the dedicated staff and board members of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation,” said RIAC president and CEO Iftikhar Ahmad, adding that T.F. Green is now firmly entrenched as the second largest airport in New England behind Logan Airport in Boston.
Providence now marks the 59th destination in the U.S. For Air Canada, which is becoming one of the largest airlines in the world. Toronto Pearson International Airport sees about 456,000 flights and carries over 44 million passengers annually.
“It’s also worth noting that there’s probably never been a better time to vacation or do business in Canada with the current currency exchange,” said Lisa Pierce, Air Canada senior director USA sales and market development. “With the 4.6 million people that live within 65 miles of Providence, this flight will give access to over 60 destinations throughout the great country of Canada via our global hub in Toronto, and it also provides access to our vast international network to Asia, Europe and South America.” Air Canada will be flying 50-seat regional jets.
Fares advertised yesterday on the Air Canada website were $244 to Toronto.
Pierce reported that Canada is Rhode Island’s largest trading partner, totaling over $531 million in exports to our northern neighbors last year. Additionally, she said, an average of 69,000 Canadians visit Rhode Island each year.
“International travel is good for Rhode Island,” said Senate majority leader Michael McCaffrey. “They’re going to land here and everything is so accessible, easy to get to and so convenient. Hopefully when they come to Rhode Island they stop at the beaches, they go to the different theaters, they go to Newport to see the big mansions and the history in Newport and then stop at the fine dining throughout the state so that they bring different revenue into the state of Rhode Island.”
“T.F. Green Airport is not just an airport that helps Warwick, it’s an economic engine driver for the entire state of Rhode Island,” agreed House majority leader Joseph Shekarchi. “It is because of that that we all need this airport to succeed.”
Mayor Scott Avedisian once again praised the airport for bolstering economic development and sustainability in Warwick through the passengers who will utilize hotels near the airport.
“What it means is that that new hotel on Jefferson Boulevard is going to be full all the time,” he said. “When you think about the fact that some of our hotels this last summer had 96 percent occupancy all summer long, that’s huge for our economy and huge for business development.”
With more nonstop flights, and now to an additional country, T.F. Green appears to be poised to continue growing its list of destinations, which Avedisian said is a sign of good things to come.
“When we see record numbers of passengers here at T.F. Green this year, that is an incredible indicator for a future that is bright and prosperous and an economy that is thriving,” he said.