Who’s the King of the North? Lester B. Pearson or Billy Bishop? With two major airports named after Canadian greats, flyers are given a couple of choices on where to land when arriving in Canada’s largest metropolis Toronto. And each couldn’t be more different than the other. So which Toronto area airport is best for your travel needs?
A Guide to Toronto’s Two Major Airports
The powerhouse Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) is not only the city’s busiest airport but also Canada’s as a whole, and the location of the bespoke Billy Bishop City Airport (YTZ) is just about as ideal as you can get from any North American airport.
Let’s have a look at how the area’s two major airports stack up against each other concerning airline networks, overall offerings, location, and links to the city center.
As the country’s largest and busiest airport, Toronto Pearson International (YYZ) will be your most likely port of entry when flying into Toronto. Serving as the region’s prime airport, YYZ isn’t only a hit song by the band Rush, it’s also the second busiest international gateway in North America just behind New York’s JFK International airport.
As a major hub for flag-carrier Air Canada and rival WestJet, Toronto Pearson offers the most extensive route map of any airport in the Great White North with daily departures to over 180 domestic and international destinations combined. Bumping YYZ into that rare air of jetports that offer nonstop flight options to all six inhabited continents.
Situated in the city of Mississauga, about 15 miles (24 km) northwest of downtown Toronto, Pearson International isn't in the most far-flung location among larger airports in the Americas, but it’s certainly not as convenient as its crosstown counterpart YTZ. Travelers arriving at Toronto Pearson can expect a 25-minute ride to downtown if the majority of the city is glued to their TV sets at home watching a Maple Leafs playoff game with no traffic on the road. But since that’s not often the case, the average trip to the city center is more likely a 35-40 minute ordeal.
Taking those factors into account, YYZ shapes up as the best Toronto area airport for travelers looking for an extensive long-haul international network, Air Canada frequent flyers, those staying in the western burbs, and passengers who don’t mind a slightly longer commute from the arrivals concourse to Toronto’s city center.
YYZ is a hub for which airlines?
- Air Canada
- Air Transat (focus city)
- Sunwing Airlines (focus city)
- FedEx Express (cargo)
How much does it cost to get from YYZ to downtown Toronto?
- UP Express: CAN$12.35 one-way (children under 12 ride free)
- TTC Bus: CAN$3.25 one-way
- Lyft, & Uber: CAN$42-50/ Taxi: CAN$50 - 60 from YYZ to downtown Toronto. Rideshare rates will vary by distance, surge pricing, and other factors. (tip not included)
For convenience factor, cabs are generally the easiest way to venture into the center from YYZ. With taxi ranks located on the ground floor outside of Terminals 1 & 3, (there is no Terminal 2) fares are based on zones and trips to the Old Toronto area should run travelers around CAN$50-60 pre-tip for the 35ish minute ride. Rideshare apps like Lyft and Uber are also reliable options but unlike in the States where savings can be significant, in Toronto fares are only slightly cheaper and you’ll have to adhere to specific pick-up locations on where to meet your drivers.
If you prefer the public transportation route, the Union Pearson Express (UP Express) is your top option with trains departing every 15 minutes (between 5:30 am to 1 am) from Terminal 1. Simply follow the “Trains to City” signs and once on board you’ll be chugging along to centrally located Union Station in 25 minutes, all for just CAN$12.35 one-way. A new fare structure was introduced a few years back halving the cost of the Express, making it now the most economical and efficient ways to reach the city center. Free Wi-Fi included!
Travelers looking to spend even less can take the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) bus for CAN$3.25 one-way. However, this mode stretches out the trip to downtown to over the hour mark and isn't the ideal choice for travelers with lots of baggage as not all buses have dedicated luggage racks. If you’re dead set on taking the bus, aim for the 900 Airport Rocket as it provides the quickest travel time and should offer a space to store some luggage onboard, but keep in mind it will only take you as far as Kipling Station. From there, you'll have to transfer onto the subway to complete your journey to downtown.
Taking to the road? Lester B. Pearson International Airport is located at 6301 Silver Dart Drive, Mississauga, ON L5P 1B2, Canada.
Formerly and still affectionately known as Island Airport, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ) is Toronto’s little regional airport that could. Dwarfed in size compared to neighboring Pearson’s route network and airline options, Billy Bishop does have one characteristic that makes it an attractive alternative for flyers visiting Toronto – location.
Situated within Toronto city limits on an island directly across from downtown, YTZ is just a quick ferry ride or walk to the heart of the city (2.5km/1.5mi) and is one of the most conveniently located airports in all of North America.
As the hub for hometown Porter Airlines, Billy Bishop Airport’s flight offerings are mostly limited to the carrier’s small route network of 24 destinations across Canada’s eastern provinces and select East Coast airports in the United States. That means you won’t end up at YTZ by accident. You’ll have to book directly with Porter or smaller regional operator FlyGTA to take advantage of Billy Bishop’s strategic location and services. (Air Canada Express operates one lone route between YUL-YTZ).
Despite its small reach, YTZ serves as an outstanding alternate airport and is the best choice for travelers flying regionally between destinations in eastern Canada and the United States, Porter Airlines frequent flyers, and passengers looking for a quick and seamless connection to downtown Toronto. Plus it features one of the best airport approaches of any major city with stunning views of the downtown skyline upon takeoff and landings.
YTZ is a hub for which airlines?
- Porter Airlines
How much does it cost to get from YTZ to downtown Toronto?
- Shuttle Bus: Free
- Ferry & Walking: Free
- TTC 509 Harbourfront Streetcar: CAN$3.25
- Lyft, & Uber: CAN$10-13/ Taxi: CAN$12-14 from Bathurst Street Terminal to downtown Toronto. Rideshare rates will vary by distance, surge pricing, and other factors. (tip not included)
For all arrivals at YTZ, passengers will have to either take a free 90-second ferry ride or utilize the pedestrian tunnel (six-minute walk) that connects the island to the mainland. Once on the mainland, travelers have two free options to reach the city center.
The simplest and most streamlined connection to downtown is via the complimentary shuttle bus that runs between the airport ferry terminal and Union Station every 15 minutes. Operating daily even on holidays shuttle bus rides are not only the most convenient method of reaching downtown they're often the quickest with around a 10 minute travel time between the airport and just outside of Union Station.
If traveling with light luggage and looking for a little bit of exercise, travelers can walk the short 2.5 km/1.5 miles to the heart of the city center and take in harbor views along the way in about 30 minutes.
Passengers in a rush or who just missed the free shuttle bus can opt for a taxi ride to the city center. A stack of cabs should be waiting outside the mainland ferry terminal waiting to take you into the Old City Hall area for about CAN$12-14 (prices will vary on final destination). Lyft and Uber rides will cost more or less the same amount as a regular taxi, but you might be able to shave off a dollar or two –not much more.
If your headed elsewhere and prefer to use public transportation, the TTC’s 509 Harbourfront Streetcar stop is a short walk from the ferry terminal and costs CAN$3.25 for a standard adult ticket.
Prefer to drive? You’ll have to park at the mainland pavilion garages or take the ferry over for $14 roundtrip, which can be boarded at Bathurst Street Terminal located at 4 Eireann Quay, Toronto, ON M5V 3A3, Canada.