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Is Canada’s Quirky Porter Airlines History?

Madhu Unnikrishnan

January 11th, 2021

Porter plane in flight.

Canadian carrier Porter Airlines has delayed its restart until the end of March, or more than a year after it suspended operations in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The airline stressed this is a tentative date. Porter has delayed its restart several times since it stopped flying last year.

“With the introduction of vaccines, we are more optimistic about determining a date in the near-term to reintroduce flights than at any point since the pandemic began,” said CEO Michael Deluce. “More time is needed to assess the vaccine’s influence on current travel restrictions and when it is appropriate to begin operations again.”

Deluce added that the company will come to a decision soon on whether to start flying on March 29. Porter had most recently expected to resume service on February 11.

Canada has among the most stringent Covid travel restrictions in the world. The country requires all passengers entering Canada to quarantine for 14 days and submit their quarantine plans to the government for approval. Last week, with little warning to the industry, Canada added another layer: All incoming passengers must present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure. Airline-industry groups  decried the measure and asked that the government relax the quarantine requirements for passengers who test negative.

Porter made a name for itself with its quirky marketing and design (including a cartoon raccoon mascot) when it launched in the mid-naughts. The carrier operated a fleet of 29 Bombardier Q400 turboprops. Porter plans to return all 29 aircraft to service when it restarts, a spokesman told Airline Weekly.

The carrier operated routes from Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport to destinations in Canada’s Eastern half and to a few cities in the U.S., including New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Myrtle Beach, S.C. The carrier has not determined how much of its network will be restored when it restarts, the spokesman said.

Porter laid off most of its staff of about 1,500 when it shut down last year. Employees were eligible for Canada’s wage-support program. Canada so far has not offered its airline industry any federal funds, Mike McNaney, president of the National Airlines Council of Canada, told Airline Weekly. Porter “cannot predict” how any future government aid may influence its relaunch, the spokesman said.

When Porter launched, it lobbied Toronto to extend the runway at Billy Bishop, and the airline said it would build a new terminal at the facility. The airport’s 4,000-ft. runway is too short for jet aircraft, and even the carrier’s Q400s have to take a weight restriction to operate there. The runway plan eventually failed, hamstringing Porter’s planned operation of jet aircraft.

Madhu Unnikrishnan

January 11th, 2021

Photo credit: A Porter aircraft over Toronto, Ontario.  Porter Airlines

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