Friday,  June 25, 2021  5:42 am

Porter denies claim that it is exploring jet service at Pearson, other airports

Porter denies claim that it is exploring jet service at Pearson, other airports
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Porter Airlines is denying claims that it is relocating to Toronto Pearson International Airport (or any other airport for that matter) after the pandemic. 

A May 20th story that ran Thursday night (May 20) in the Globe and Mail claims that Porter, which is currently not flying due to COVID-19 restrictions, has begun preliminary talks about obtaining slots at YYZ and at airports in Ottawa, Hamilton, Kitchener and London.

The Globe says it obtained the information from two inside sources, which the newspaper did not name because the individuals are not allowed to speak publicly on the matter.  

The story unfolds on the heels of another unconfirmed report claiming that Porter has purchased 30 passenger jets.

Jets, currently, cannot fly out of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ), a regional airport located on the Toronto Islands, due to federal legislation and concerns around noise, pollution and the requirement of a longer runway.

Porter operates a fleet of Bombardier Q400 turboprop planes (although it has looked into the possibility of flying jets in the past).

On May 13, trade publication Airfinance Journal reported that Porter has purchased 30 Embraer E195 E2 jets, a narrow-body medium-range aircraft.

These claims, if true, would definitely represent a dramatic shift for Porter as the airline, like all airlines, continues to navigate the complexities of the coronavirus crisis. 

And it’s a compelling story worth grabbing the popcorn for, but a little more evidence and confirmation of facts is needed before this tale can take flight.

Official sources The Globe spoke to either denied or didn't respond to the claims, leaving several holes in the story and, not to mention, several unanswered questions.

Porter spokesperson Brad Cicero told the newspaper that Porter has no plans to relocate from Billy Bishop.

Founder and executive chairman Robert Deluce did not respond to interview requests and Porter apparently declined to make Michael Deluce, the founder’s son and chief executive, available for comment.

Embraer declined to name the buyer of those jets, and Cicero said “it isn’t our order,” noting that Porter’s focus lies on resuming flights in 2021 with its current Dash 8-400 aircraft.

Deborah Wilson of PortsToronto said there’s no plan or negotiations to bring jets to Billy Bishop, and a spokesperson for Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Ottawa isn’t looking into it either.

PAX reached out to Porter for comment and signs indicate that this little nugget might have to simmer in the time-will-tell pot...for now. 

"There’s nothing that we can add to what's been speculated on. Our focus is on getting existing operations up and running as quickly as possible," Porter's Brad Cicero told us.

Porter has occupied YTZ since 2006 and, prior to the pandemic, served many Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada destinations, as well as U.S. cities, from Boston, to Chicago (Midway) to Newark to Washington-Dulles.

A big part of Porter's appeal is that it provides convenient air service out of downtown Toronto (in addition to offering an amazing in-flight experience).

The airline, which has not flown since March 2020, recently reset its tentative date for resuming flights to July 20, 2021.

What we do know is that Porter may encounter some new competition at Billy Bishop later this year. 

Boston-based charter company Waltzing Matilda Aviation, in April, revealed plans to launch Connect Airlines and link Toronto’s island airport with hubs in the Northeast and Midwest United States.

The new airline says it is aiming to start operations at YTZ this October 2021. 

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