Porter Airlines, a Toronto-based airline that has focused on business travel since its launch in 2006, announced plans to vastly expand beyond its current four U.S. destinations beginning in the second half of 2022, as it begins taking delivery of at least 30, and up to 80, new Embraer E195-E2 aircraft. Senior airlines editor Robert Silk spoke with Porter chief commercial officer Kevin Jackson about the airline's ambition to grow into as many as 18 new U.S. markets as well as its plans to incorporate leisure-oriented routes into its network.
Q: Lots of our readers in the U.S. aren't very familiar with Porter. Tell us a bit about your operation.
A: Porter is clearly known for being the easiest way to access downtown Toronto. We started the airline 15 years ago in Billy Bishop Airport in downtown Toronto. From there we've built a network to core business centers across that region of North America. We serve four major U.S. markets from Toronto: Chicago Midway, Washington Dulles, Newark and Boston. We have high-frequency service. And when you layer that with the quality of our service, both from a standpoint of how we interact with our customers and also our onboard complimentary free beer and wine in real glassware and complimentary snacks to all passengers, we've really built an airline that passengers enjoy.
Q: Will your expansion as you take on up to 80 new aircraft change your business model? You've said you will keep flying your current 78-seat Bombardier Q400s from Billy Bishop, as well.
A: We view this as adding on to what we've already built. And what I mean by that is if you look at the markets that we intend to fly, they are those top markets from eastern Canada. And that's going to be western Canada, of course. But we also get to enhance the leisure side of our business. We get to add what a lot of Canadians demand, which is those fun destinations. Canadians love to go to Florida. They love to go to Arizona and Vegas. So, we're going to get to add these leisure markets in the southern part of the United States, and we also have plans to look at the Caribbean and Mexico.
Q: You expect the first delivery of E195s about a year from now. How rapidly will you be taking the 30 aircraft that you have on firm order?
A: We'll take delivery of those aircraft at approximately two per month starting in mid-2022. You'll see us introduce new markets quickly once we start to deploy them.
Q: The E195-E2 will be larger than your Bombardier planes and be able to fly much farther. Will you change your onboard experience?
A: The Q400 has no middle seats. The new aircraft will also have no middle seats, and we will continue to offer that great passenger experience that people have come to know us for. We're going to take the free beer and wine in glassware as well as complimentary snacks and give it to everyone onboard the Embraer aircraft. And then on the longer-haul flights we'll enhance that service. We're also looking at a premium product that we're still developing details about. But we know that there is some demand for a premium-type product onboard the aircraft, and we will introduce that.
Q: Can you tell me about your program for travel advisors?
A: We have relationships with every major travel agency group in the area in which we fly today in eastern Canada, and we expect to continue to view the travel agency community as critical to supporting our expansion and to allowing us to reach deeper into the markets that we don't serve today; for example, the leisure market and the cruise markets in Florida.
Q: Are you in all three of the major North American GDSs?
A: Yes, we are. And we have a commission program for our preferred agency partners. We have both point-of-sale commission and then override commission structures.