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3 MIN

Porter Offers New Routes, New Beer and a Handy Policy for Early Birds

Ace Hill named as new beer; Fredericton and Saint John added to route map

Frequent flyers with Porter Airlines may have noticed a few things this summer – new and upcoming service changes that have been announced or recently implemented.

One change lets you fly faster, one makes it easier for passengers to get from Toronto and Ottawa to destinations in the Maritimes, and a third one … well, hold onto your hats because it involves beer.

Before we get into more detail, a quick note: Billy is a project of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport; we’re separate from Porter Airlines. All the same, we take an interest in what happens with Porter. Most of our readers have flown with the Toronto-based airline, and in turn it’s the one that flies most often out of YTZ.

With that in mind, here’s what’s new for Porter passengers … 

New routes

Porter will begin flying to New Brunswick’s second- and third-largest cities in September, adding a Toronto-Ottawa-Fredericton route as of Sept. 12, and inaugurating a Toronto-Ottawa-Saint John flight on Sept. 21. (That is: Passengers board a plane in Toronto, it stops in Ottawa to pick up more people, and then everyone flies onward to New Brunswick. The routes involve a stop in Ottawa on the way back to Toronto, too.)

The airline’s similar Toronto-Ottawa-Moncton service has flown since 2010; the new routes complete the trifecta of New Brunswick’s major cities. With a population divided between three regional airports, New Brunswickers can be heard to complain that they suffer from relatively poor air access compared to, say, Halifax. Any new route adds convenience. (And a regularly scheduled Ottawa connection is a new thing for Saint John.)

Not surprisingly, then, Porter spokesman Brad Cicero tells Billy that early interest in the routes has been keen. “We don’t really talk about passenger numbers on a route-by-route basis, but we do see that there’s some demand there,” he says. Performance for the Moncton route “has been quite strong, so if we can replicate that in the other two cities we’ll be happy.”

Courtesy Tourism Fredericton

Fredericton, capital of New Brunswick

Saint John and Fredericton winning the new routes means there have to be losers, too – for one thing, Porter does not have an unlimited supply of Bombardier Q400s. In this case, the losers are North Bay and Pittsburgh, which will both see their Toronto Porter flights come to an end in September. Both routes were introduced in 2015, and neither met expectations in terms of passenger loads.

As for potential routes for the future, Cicero says: “We’re always interested in those conversations. Sometimes airports will come to us, sometimes we’ll be more proactive with them and initiate those conversations. It is a regular process, and some periods of time can be more active than others.”

New get-there-faster policy

As of this summer, Porter has a perk to offer travellers between Toronto and Newark, Montreal or Ottawa: If there’s room for you on an earlier flight, you can hop aboard and get airborne sooner.  

To take part, hurry to the airport and ask Porter’s check-in staff if there’s room on an earlier flight than the one you have booked. (Yes, you have to make the request in person.) If you don’t have luggage to check in or an onward connection with Porter, staff will reassign you to an empty seat on the earlier flight.

“You don’t have to do anything to be eligible,” says Cicero, who notes this program could be helpful “if you happen to finish your business earlier than intended.” And the planes stay fuller, so everybody wins.

The routes involved are three of the airline’s most frequent: Porter has 14 scheduled flights daily from Toronto to Newark (New York), and at least 17 a day to each of Ottawa and Montreal.

New beer

Steam Whistle pilsner was the signature beer of Porter Airlines for a decade, but that partnership has given way to one with a different Ontario beer brand: Ace Hill, which makes both a pilsner and a Vienna lager. Yes, passengers will henceforth have two beer choices instead of one.

Courtesy Porter Airlines

Passengers can now choose from two kinds of beer (they're both lagers, mind you)

While not necessarily a darling of professional beer critics, Ace Hill – which is headquartered in Toronto but brewed in Ottawa for the time being – has quickly established itself as a favourite of Toronto’s Instagram brigade. It also won over the in-house tasting panel at Porter Airlines. “The beer is one of the signature elements of the Porter experience,” Cicero says, and “we take the whole process of evaluating anything we take on board quite seriously.”

Also, Ace Hill and Porter share a white-and-navy blue colour scheme, which could only have helped woo an airline that cares more than most of its competitors about looking sharp.

Published Friday, August 25th 2017

Header image credit: Courtesy Porter Airlines

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