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Porter Airlines Is Expanding: New Routes & Embraer Jets

After an 18-month halt caused by the coronavirus, Porter Airlines has announced the purchase of 80 Embraer E195-E2 jets.

The first planes will be delivered in late 2022, allowing Porter to expand their route network to destinations such as British Columbia, Alberta, Florida, and California.

What Is Porter Airlines?

Porter is an airline that operates out of Billy Bishop Airport (YTZ) in downtown Toronto. Their fleet consists of 29 all-economy class Dash 8 Q400 turboprops. Porter’s route network is limited to the East Coast, with service to regional airports in Northern Ontario, the Atlantic provinces, and major hubs such as Boston, Newark, and Montreal.

Porter places an emphasis on in-flight experience. They offer complimentary alcoholic drinks served in glassware to every passenger, as well as free refreshments. The seat pitch on their Dash 8 is above average at 32 inches. For comparison, Air Canada’s new Airbus A220 only offers 30 inches, which may persuade taller people to pay for extra legroom seats.

Implications of the Porter–Embraer Partnership

Being the first airline in North America to operate the Embraer E195-E2, Porter will be able to expand its route network to three key markets:

  • Central and Western Canada: Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia
  • All of the continental US: California, Colorado, Arizona, etc.
  • Sun destinations: Florida and the Carribean

According to FlightConnections, Porter’s longest nonstop flight is from Toronto to Halifax at 1,274 kilometres and about 3 hours of flight time. On the Embraer, their furthest projected destination is San Francisco at triple the distance.

The longer range and increased passenger capacity of the E195 will make Porter a viable competitor to Air Canada and WestJet on medium-haul domestic and transborder routes. The Embraer is more fuel efficient than the Airbus A220s and Boeing 737s which major Canadian carriers operate regionally. Therefore, Porter will have lower operating costs which may translate to lower ticket prices and a reduced carbon footprint per passenger.

The new aircraft will fly out of Toronto Pearson (YYZ). Jets are banned from Billy Bishop because of insufficient runway length as well as noise concerns.

Embraer Cabin Comfort and Service

According to Porter, the Embraer E195-E2 offers natural leather seats in a 2-2 configuration, guaranteeing every passenger a place next to a window or an aisle. For comparison, Air Canada’s A220 has a 3-2 configuration in economy and 2-2 in business.

Every seat features adjustable headrests and individual power outlets. The tray table is foldable to allow for more personal space.

The lavatory is spacious, offering touchless faucets and water flush. Passengers in wheelchairs benefit from a special grip. Currently, restrooms on regional aircraft are prohibitively tight and don’t have accessibility features for people with reduced mobility.

Akin to the A220 and 737, the windows are large. This is a much-needed departure from the tiny windows on Air Canada’s Bombardier CRJ and A320-family aircraft.

Porter promises that overhead bins will fit a carry-on bag for every passenger. With this considered, they may avoid taking Air Canada’s lead in forcing customers to check-in hand luggage on full flights.

Finally, the aircraft will feature mood lighting. It’s a standard across new plane deliveries, helping the cabin feel more comfortable and spacious.

Booking Flights with Porter

Porter will be resuming flights gradually throughout September 2021.

At the time of writing, cash fares are in line with Air Canada and WestJet across domestic destinations. However, Porter’s onboard offering may be more competitive, and Billy Bishop Airport is convenient for those who live close to downtown Toronto.

Porter has a joint venture with JetBlue to offer flights to the US, connecting through Boston (BOS) and Newark (EWR). Such itineraries are available on the Porter website.

Porter has four other airline partners: Qatar Airways, El Al, Icelandair, and Azores Airlines. Connecting flights with a Porter segment can be booked on the websites of the four carriers.

Porter offers instalment plans on tickets that cost over $300, facilitating travel for budget-conscious passengers. This is a feature that has yet to be explored by Air Canada and WestJet, but available on United in the US.

The Loyalty Program: VIPorter

Porter’s loyalty program, VIPorter, awards customers at a fixed earning rate, depending on their elite status. The airline publishes the benefits and earnings chart on their website.

Rewards are redeemable only on Porter-operated flights. The value of 1 VIPorter point usually fluctuates around 2.5 cents, depending on the underlying cash fare, considering taxes and fees.

For example, a flight from Montreal to Halifax on October 6, 2021 is 9,500 VIPorter points + $75, while the Standard cash fare is $237. A trip from Halifax to Thunder Bay, ON clocks at 11,000 VIPorter points + $73, providing slightly better value compared to the revenue cost of $364.

All fares are bookable with VIPorter points, with the Flexible and Freedom fares requiring twice or thrice as many, respectively. Along with being a poor value proposition, booking fully refundable fares is quite useless at twice the cost of the next cheapest option.

As opposed to Air Canada and WestJet, Porter does not offer a co-branded credit card. Hence, the only way to earn points is through paid flights and ancillary purchases, such as premium seats and baggage.

Conclusion

Porter Airlines has announced the acquisition of 80 Embraer ERJ195-E2 jets, allowing the carrier to expand its route network to key markets such as Western and Central Canada, all of the continental US, and the Caribbean.

While they don’t provide outsized benefits with their loyalty program, passengers who prefer paying cash for economy class may consider Porter over major carriers. The on-board offering with larger seat pitch and complimentary refreshments provides better value for the same price as other airlines.

Porter will resume regular service from their hub at Billy Bishop in Downtown Toronto on September 8, 2021. Meanwhile, Embraer jets will start flying from Pearson in late 2022, and we’re looking forward to giving them a try.