Opened in 1939 as the Port George VI Airfield, it became generally known as the Island Airport. In 1994, the name was officially changed to the Toronto City Centre Airport.
The TCCA is used primarily by commuter airlines (chiefly Air Canada Jazz), as well as civilian pilots, and is popular as a flight training base. Currently, some 120,000 flights land and take off from the airport each year, down from a historic high of 240,000 in the mid-1960s. About 100,000 passengers use the airport annually.
The airport is served by a ferry from the foot of Bathurst Street (at 121 metres, it is reputedly the world's shortest regular ferry route). Access to the airport from the rest of the Islands is restricted.
Since the late 1990s there has been great debate over the future of the airport, which has required constant financial assistance from the federal government. The Toronto Port Authority has called for either expansion of the airport to accommodate up to 900,000 passengers annually, or its closure. Expansion plans include the increased use of turboprop planes and the possibly introduction of regional jets to serve destinations such as New York City, Chicago, Detroit and Washington DC, as well as a 16-million dollar lift bridge to connect to the mainland.
Local activists, among them the lobby group Community AIR (Airport Impact Review), oppose the expansion on the grounds of increased air and noise pollution, as well as safety concerns. They claim that the increase in traffic will hamper recent government initiatives to rejuvenate the Toronto waterfront; proponents point to the expansion as a financial boost for the city's downtown.
In November 2003, David Miller was elected mayor of Toronto. One of his major election platforms was a halt of construction of a bridge to the TCCA and expansion of the airport.