Porter Airlines has approached Toronto Pearson International Airport and other airports in southern Ontario about establishing post-pandemic passenger aircraft service, sources say, a change in strategy for the carrier who is blocked from flying jets to his Toronto Islands base.
Porter’s decision comes as the carrier reportedly purchases 30 passenger jets from Brazil’s Embraer.
Porter has long sought to fly jets from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, but those plans were blocked by the federal government due to concerns such as noise, pollution and the impact of the longer runway that would be necessary.
“We are not moving from Billy Bishop to any airport,” said Brad Cicero, a spokesperson for Porter, who declined to answer a question about finding slots at Toronto Pearson.
Porter’s founder and executive chairman Robert Deluce did not respond to interview requests. Porter declined to make Michael Deluce, the son of the founder and current CEO, available for an interview.
Porter’s talks with airport authorities are preliminary, according to two people familiar with the matter the Globe and Mail agreed not to quote because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
In addition to Toronto Pearson, Porter approached airports like Ottawa, Hamilton, Kitchener and London, one of the sources said. Airports declined to comment or did not respond to interview requests.
On May 13, trade publication Airfinance Journal reported that Porter was the buyer of 30 Embraer E195 E2 jets, a narrow-body medium-range jet that can accommodate up to 150 people. Embraer declined by email to name the buyer of the jets.
Porter flies a fleet of 29 Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft that can accommodate 65 to 78 people.
Mr. Cicero did not respond to questions regarding the reported purchase of the Embraer aircraft. “It’s not our order,” he said. “We have no intention of changing fleets. We continue to focus on relaunching operations in 2021 with the current Dash 8-400 fleet. “
John Gradek, who teaches aviation leadership at McGill University, said Porter did not have the opportunity to expand at his Toronto Island airport base and was forced to fly planes at a capacity below capacity due to the short track of 3,900 feet. He assumed the airline was relaunching itself with a new fleet ahead of a sale. (Porter’s public offering in 2010 failed.)
“It’s a radical departure from the airline we know,” said Addison Schonland of aerospace consulting firm AirInsight. “The business model seems to be changing.”
Porter in 2013 placed a $ 2 billion conditional order for up to 30 Bombardier CSeries jets, now known as the Airbus A220. The airline has sought to extend the island’s airport runway by 200 meters to accommodate larger planes, but has faced strong local opposition.
In 2015, then Transport Minister Marc Garneau blocked Porter’s plan to fly jets from the island.
The decision stands, said a spokeswoman for the current Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra. “Our government does not intend to change the tripartite agreement between the federal government, the City of Toronto and PortsToronto to allow jets to use Billy Bishop Airport,” said Allison St-Jean.
“There are no plans or negotiations to discuss the jets at Billy Bishop Airport with any of our tripartite partners,” said Deborah Wilson, spokesperson for PortsToronto, the agency. government that owns and operates the airport.
An Airbus spokesperson said: “While of course we would like more Canadian carriers to choose the A220 designed and built in Canada, we are not commenting on any discussions we may or may not have with the airlines.
Porter’s 2013 order is not in the backlog of Airbus, which had 494 planes ordered but not yet built at the end of April 2021. Airbus builds A220 planes five per month at factories in Mirabel , in Quebec. and Mobile, Ala., with plans to increase production where appropriate to a maximum of 14 aircraft per month.
Porter, who has not flown since March 21, 2020 due to the pandemic, recently pushed back his relaunch date to July 20.
Porter, a private company, which employed 1,500 people before the pandemic, flies to several Canadian, US and vacation destinations, but is perhaps best known for business travel due to its proximity to downtown Toronto . Business travel is expected to recover from the pandemic last, after family flights and tourism.
In good times, Porter accounts for 85% of air traffic at the island’s airport, while Air Canada does the rest. Porter sold the airport terminal to Nieuport Aviation, controlled by New York-based JP Morgan Asset Management Inc., in 2015 for more than $ 700 million.
Nieuport CEO Neil Pakey declined to comment on Porter’s plan for jets at other airports. Mr Pakey said he and the airline were focused on bringing Porter’s reboot in July.
Porter’s talks come as he continues discussions with the federal government about financial assistance to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the business. In March 2020, the airline received a $ 135 million loan through Export Development Canada and said earlier in May that it was in negotiations for additional assistance. The government has stated that any taxpayer assistance comes with conditions that include “protection of jobs in the airline industry”.
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