The Business Times

Porter Airlines elbows onto Air Canada turf with jet deal

Published Tue, Jul 13, 2021 · 10:13 AM

[TORONTO] Porter Airlines Inc plans to order as many as 80 Embraer SA commercial E195-E2 jets as it expands services to Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

The decision moves the regional carrier squarely onto larger rival Air Canada's home turf as the airline industry prepares for a surge in travel demand as pandemic restrictions begin to ease. The introduction of jets also marks a shift for Porter, which has previously relied on a turboprop fleet.

"We believe that now is the right time to make this investment as the pandemic resets the aviation landscape," Porter Chief Executive Michael Deluce said in a statement. "Adding a diverse selection of popular business and leisure destinations to our network means that we are better positioned to serve the needs of many more passengers."

The airline has ordered 30 Embraer jets, with purchase rights for a further 50. The deal is valued at US$5.82 billion, if all 80 are ordered, and will be funded from aircraft sale-leaseback agreements and privately from shareholders. The planes are expected to enter into service starting in the latter half of 2022.

Canadian airlines are hoping to capitalise on pent-up demand from travellers after more than a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions that resulted in flight suspensions and sweeping cost cuts. Porter flights have been suspended since March 2020.

This will be the first time Porter has operated service out of Pearson, Canada's largest airport. The carrier launched in 2006 offering commuter flights from Billy Bishop Airport, located on an island in Toronto's harbour. Porter said it will continue to offer downtown departures with service expected to resume Sept 8.

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"Our commitment to Billy Bishop Airport is not changing," said Robert Deluce, Porter's founder and executive chairman. "Our corporate headquarters at Billy Bishop is being maintained and we will continue serving the same network of regional markets from downtown Toronto. "

Potential destinations for the E2s, which have transcontinental range and can carry 120 to 146 passengers, include Mexico, the Caribbean, and dozens of North American cities, the airline said. In addition to Toronto's Pearson, the new jets will fly out of Montreal, Ottawa and Halifax.

The investment will create as many as 6,000 new jobs, the airline said.

"We don't have concerns longer term - we think we're near the tail end of what has been a very difficult 15 months," Michael Deluce said in an interview with BNN Bloomberg Television. "We're well situated to handle the period really, post-pandemic."

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