Air Canada’s inaugural flight from Toronto – marking the beginning of daily seasonal air service from May 1 to Oct. 15 - rolled up to Gate 4 of Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport Monday afternoon to the fanfare of water cannons, a ribbon-cutting, cheers and moose cupcakes.
Inside the terminal, passengers waiting to board the return flight might have been the most excited of all.
Toronto is home to Susan Bailey of Bluffton, who was one of the first at the gate, long before the incoming flight was due.
“I made my reservation the minute I heard the news,” she said. “My mother and most of my family is still in Toronto. But flying from here to there has never been easy.
“Until now, that is.”
Charlie Clark, vice president of communications for the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, echoed Bailey’s sentiments.
“The new flight represents a much more convenient, easier way for our top visitor market to get here,” Clark said, adding that Toronto is the Lowcountry’s No. 1 tourism draw outside the United States.
“And we expect this to be a two-way street,” she said. “Our residents are excited to have this direct route to one of Canada’s biggest and most beautiful cities.”
Savannah Airport Commission Chairman Steve Green said he hoped the new flight would be a boon, not only for the hospitality industry but for economic development as well.
“Canada is one of our largest trading partners,” he said. “Having direct air service from Toronto provides a great opportunity to bring Canadian business down here.”
Louise Blais, Consul General of Canada in Atlanta, agreed.
“We are your No. 1 customers,” she told the assembled group. “Canada buys more from Georgia than any other country in the world.
“These kinds of relationships happen because of people. So we are absolutely delighted to have this new route that will foster closer ties between the people who make it happen in Toronto and the people who make it happen in Savannah.
“We’re looking forward to this flight being extremely successful, as we know it will,” Blais said.
“We know Canadians love this area and we want to challenge Savannahians to come experience all Toronto has to offer.”
Patrick Khoury, senior director of sales for Air Canada, thanked the Savannah Airport staff and the commission members for their gracious Southern hospitality.
“And a special thanks to our customers for your support,” he added, giving a nod to the passengers queued up at the gate, ready to board.
“Thanks to you, Air Canada will be adding 21 new flights this year alone.
“What that means is you can go from here to Toronto and from Toronto, you can go virtually anywhere on the planet.”
But for Bailey, it’s more than enough that she can go directly from Savannah to Toronto.
Now she is hoping the flights will be so successful, they will become a year-round staple.
“My husband and I won’t even try flying to Toronto at Christmas for fear we’d end up spending the holidays in an airport,” she said. “If these flights become year-round, I can actually be home for Christmas.”
- Flights leave Toronto daily at 12:35 p.m., arriving in Savannah at 2:50 p.m.
- Flights leave Savannah daily at 3:20 p.m., arriving in Toronto at 5:34 p.m.
Round-trip flights booked 30 days out start at $265.
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