By Vanni Gibertini
Porter Airlines Looking For Pastures New With Embraer E195-E2 Order
In an unexpected move that has revitalized the hopes of fledgling Canadian carrier Porter Airlines, an order for 30 Embraer E195-E2 aircraft with an option for 50 further units has been announced by the Toronto City Airport-based airline and the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer.
The Embraer E195-E2, nicknamed “The Profit Maker,” is the first jet that will become part of Porter’s fleet, now entirely made up of 29 De Havilland Dash 8-400 turboprop aircraft. Porter had initially ordered 30 Bombardier CS100s — now renamed the Airbus 220-100 after Airbus took over the program from Bombardier — but it had to subsequently cancel the order after it had become apparent it would not be able to operate the aircraft type from Toronto City Airport.
Porter Airlines entered the Canadian market in 2006 as a disruptor that managed to provide a quality alternative to the Air Canada-Westjet duopoly on the main trunk routes in Eastern Canada, especially those of the “Golden Triangle” connecting Toronto with Ottawa and Montreal. It launched its services from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, a smaller airport located on an island close to the Toronto waterfront, providing a free shuttle between Union Station and the airport and welcoming all passengers into its departure lounge with free water, coffee and cookies.
The small airport could only be served with turboprop aircraft, but that was enough for up to 15 domestic routes and five transborder connections to Boston, Newark, Washington D.C., Chicago and seasonal service to Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Porter was able to ramp up its services to a level of frequency that could compete with those of the incumbents, therefore establishing itself as a valid alternative. This convinced Air Canada to create a separate “Air Canada Express” brand to start flights into Toronto City in order to serve business and leisure passengers that had been introduced by Porter to the convenience of landing 15 minutes and a free shuttle ride away from Toronto’s business district instead of having to negotiate a nightmare 30- or 60-minute, $50 taxi ride in rush hour traffic.
Air Canada Express had to start with 15 daily frequencies to Toronto, adding some service continuing to Moncton, Canada.
International services to the U.S. were limited by the range of the Dash 8-400 and the lack of pre-clearance facilities at Billy Bishop, forcing Porter to fly only into airports able to handle international traffic and therefore being excluded by some of the most lucrative destinations such as New York’s La Guardia Airport and Washington D.C.’s National Airport.
In 2013 Porter ordered 12 107-seat Bombardier CS100 jets, with an option for 18 more, and at the same time started a very active lobbying campaign to have the jet ban imposed on Billy Bishop Airport lifted by the City of Toronto, and to have a runway extension approved that would have enabled the CS100 aircraft to fly non-stop all the way to Los Angeles from the city airport on the island.
Unfortunately for the carrier, after the federal elections in 2015, the new Canadian government in charge announced it would not support jet operations at Toronto City and would not approve the runway extension, thus leaving Porter no choice but to cancel the order for the CS100s.
The airline was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Porter grounded its fleet on March 18, 2020, and announced a restart date more than half a dozen times, but it has not recommenced services yet, the new intended start date being Sept. 8.
With this new order, Porter has announced its expansion outside Toronto City Airport, where its entire fleet is now based and where the airline is headquartered, with the Embraer E195-E2s being based at Ottawa, Halifax, Montreal and Toronto Pearson Airport. The airline had obviously exhausted all the growth possibilities at their home airport and is now forced to look for new markets.
“This is a defining moment in Porter’s history,” said Michael Deluce, President and CEO of Porter Airlines. in a press release. “Today we lay the foundation for a new and further-reaching service for our customers, delivered in true Porter style and comfort. Embraer’s E2, with its spacious cabin, quiet operations, and no middle seats, provides the refined comfortable experience upon which Porter has built its reputation for service and quality. Our customers are going to love the experience on this jet as much as we already do at Porter.”
The Embraer E195-E2 aircraft will also represent a significant step up in terms of capacity: even if the specific seating configuration has not been announced yet, the jet can carry between 120 and 146 passengers, representing a sizeable increase from the 78-seat capacity of their Dash 8-400 aircraft.
Deliveries and entries into service will begin in the second half of 2022.