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Porter launches Pearson expansion, with more routes to come

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Porter Airlines will begin flying Embraer E195-E2 jets from Toronto Pearson International Airport beginning February 1.

In September 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic grounding all of Porter Airlines’ fleet, CEO Michael Deluce called one of the company’s executives.

“I have a crazy idea,” Deluce recalls telling then-Chief Commercial Officer Kevin Jackson.

That crazy idea was an aggressive growth strategy that could transform the airline. The ambitious plans extend beyond Billy Bishop Airport in downtown Toronto and expand the airline’s fleet to up to 100 aircraft as it begins to fly out of the nation’s busiest hub.

The plan officially kicked off on Wednesday, when the airline’s first Embraer E195-E2 jets will enter service on flights from Toronto Pearson International Airport to Ottawa and Montreal. The airline continues to expand service from Pearson, launching flights to Vancouver on February 7, Edmonton on February 14, Calgary on February 22, and Halifax on February 23. To do.

“We needed to expand beyond our current structure, and that’s something we’ve been looking at for a while,” Deluce said in an interview. Yahoo Finance Canada Aboard the airline’s first test flight with E195-E2 passengers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a crisis and a challenge, but it has also presented us with opportunities for growth.”

The opportunity came in the form of new aircraft available for ordering and fast delivery, the opening of airport slots at the nation’s largest airports and a market segment ripe for picking, he said.

Porter Airlines has a firm order for 50 E195 jets and has purchase rights for an additional 50. So far, he has received 5 aircraft, with 25 more due to be delivered by the end of the year. We will use these planes to depart from Terminal 3 at Pearson, where WestJet is also located, and expand to various destinations in Canada and the United States. (Porter has indicated that major North American cities are potential destinations, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Dallas, Nashville, Atlanta, Tampa, Orlanda and Miami, but has yet to announce additional routes.) Is not.)

Canadian airline competition heats up

Canada’s airline industry has become more competitive in recent years with the launch of several new low cost airlines such as Flair Airlines, Lynx Airlines and Canada Jetlines. DeLoos said economy travelers will be Porter’s main focus. It’s a segment he says makes up his 90% of the market and has been ignored by other airlines.

“Over the last 20 years, the industry as a whole has chipped away at the experience of the economy. Today, it’s extremely painful, stressful, and often dehumanizing for most people. Economy No airline has eliminated traveler pain points.

“That’s exactly what we’re trying to do.”

Deluce said Porter plans to capture that economic market segment by offering competitive pricing and a superior travel experience. The airline will continue to offer complimentary snacks, beer and wine on all flights, as well as routes from Billy Bishop Airport. Each flight also includes free Wi-Fi.

Porter also believes that people want to avoid sitting in the middle of an airplane. Part of the reason was that the seating configuration included four seats in each row. According to market research, the lack of a middle seat was his main selling point among Porter’s customers.

“Porter offers a completely different level of service.

But it remains to be seen whether the Porter brand can carry over from Billy Bishop Airport to Pearson, says McGill University professor John Gladek. Previously, Porter operated out of Toronto’s Billy Bishop, a small city airport dedicated to turboprop aircraft.

The question is how Porter mitigates potential failures of Pearson’s infrastructure and minimizes the impact on the services it provides. “John Gradek, McGill University

“If Michael Deluce can move the brand from Billy Bishop to Pearson, that would be a big advantage for Porter,” said Gradek in an interview. Yahoo Finance Canada.

“But what concerns me is the infrastructure that Pearson uses for security and baggage movement… Baggage belts can freeze while on vacation. How do we mitigate potential failures in our infrastructure and minimize the impact on the services we provide?”

Deluce said the airline will launch a new app to help streamline passenger travel at Pearson Airport. But he added that the airlines themselves bear “a lot of the blame” for the problems seen at Pearson Airport throughout the summer and winter travel seasons.

“We have taken a significant step forward in hiring to ensure a smooth rollout of operations,” said Deluce.

Still, the competition will be tough. Gradek said economic markets are still below pre-pandemic capacity levels and WestJet and Air Canada are likely to accommodate expansion of his Porter.

“Leisure travel has been very successful with low fares and carriers in that market. Full-fare economy travel has lagged far behind the growth seen in leisure,” said Gradek.

“In terms of returning to pre-pandemic market size and willingness to pay those fees, we have a way forward.”

He also expects WestJet and Air Canada to respond to Porter’s expansion, lower prices and upgrade their service offerings. Nonetheless, “It’s good news for Canadians that this carrier is coming to market, bringing more competition,” said Gradek.

“I don’t think Canada can support six carriers in the market,” he added.

“But for Canadians who have been looking for more competition, it’s good.”

Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. follow her on her twitter @alicjawithaj.

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