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Real Estate

This plane flies Torontonians to cottage country in 40 minutes

The pilot is Chris Hogue, and he charges between $1,500 and $2,000 for up to five passengers

This plane flies Torontonians to cottage country in 40 minutes
Illustration by Jenn Liv

You launched Cottage Air this spring. Was running your own flight service always the plan? Definitely. I got my commercial pilot’s licence in 2001, but then 9/11 happened, leading to a plunge in air travel and widespread layoffs. So I got a job in the automotive industry and kept up with my flying as my side passion. Covid-19 has been a tragedy, but it has also created a pretty strong market for a domestic charter airline service. People aren’t travelling outside the country, and they’re spending a lot more time at cottages. So I decided to go for it.

Who is your typical customer? I just booked a long contract with a woman who wants to fly every Friday afternoon from Toronto to her cottage in Muskoka with her two dogs, and then home every Sunday. I’m also booking a lot of Bay Street guys who are mostly working from the cottage but have to be in the office once a week. On top of that, I have real estate agents booking me to take clients to a bunch of properties in one day, and developers who are trying to sell condos up here and want me to take prospective buyers on a tour of the area. I just spoke with an interior designer who wants to fly her clients to their cottage for a sort of red-carpet big reveal kind of thing. I’m also taking bookings from groups of friends who want to fly up for a golf day, or families who are looking for a one-time special occasion. A lot of people have saved on other expenses and they’re looking to spend. They’re buying boats and Jet Skis and they’re taking planes.

What’s the in-flight experience like? The plane is six-seat de Havilland Beaver. It’s got Wi-Fi and charging ports, and complimentary local beers and caramel-covered pecans. For Torontonians, we do pickups at any of the three airports—Pearson, Billy Bishop, Buttonville—and drop-offs are right to your dock or resort or golf course. To Muskoka, it’s 40 minutes from Buttonville, which is a lot better than sitting in traffic for four hours.

How much does all of this convenience cost? A flight from Toronto to Muskoka runs between $1,500 and $2,000. And that’s for up to five passengers. For $300 a pop, you’re at your cottage in 40 minutes. It’s time or money, and after this year, people are realizing the value of their time.

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