Fast-growing Canadian carrier Porter Airlines is keen to add routes to Philadelphia and the Baltimore-Washington D.C. metropolitan area from its downtown-Toronto hub by 2012 – and possibly much sooner.
Porter Airlines, which currently operates a fleet of 20 Bombardier Q400 fast turboprops from its hub at Billy Bishop Toronto City Centre Airport (YTZ) on high-service-frequency routes to business destinations such as Montréal, Ottawa, Newark, Boston and Chicago Midway, plans to add more destinations in 2011.
The airline is taking delivery of four more new 70-seat Q400 NextGen aircraft in the spring of 2011 – two in April and two in May – and could add new destinations as or soon after the new aircraft come into service. While Canadian press reports say the carrier is considering launching service to Eastern Canada destinations such as Fredericton and Saint John in New Brunswick and Windsor and Timmins in Ontario, Porter Airlines founder and CEO Robert Deluce stresses that his airline also wants to expand its U.S. transborder network to additional cities.
“I really don’t want to pre-empt because the decisions haven’t yet been made, but I can tell you that Washington and Philadelphia are certainly high on the radar screen in terms of U.S. destinations,” says Deluce.
While Deluce concedes that Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are also of interest to Porter as potential destinations as it expands its network from YTZ (with Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport also being touted in the Canadian press), he makes no secret of his desire for Porter ultimately to serve Washington Reagan National Airport. The airport by the side of the Potomac is almost as close to downtown Washington D.C. as is YTZ – which is located on Toronto Island in Lake Ontario, just off Toronto’s lakeside area near the CN Tower – to downtown Toronto.
However, it is unlikely that Reagan National will be the first airport that Porter Airlines serves in Washington D.C. This is because Reagan has no U.S. customs and immigration facilities. Due to resource limitations, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has not yet authorized the establishment of a U.S. immigration pre-clearance facility at YTZ.
“I have no doubt that it’ll come in time – I think it’s just a matter of reaching their threshold in terms of the number of outbound U.S. passengers [at YTZ],” says Deluce. “We’re already ahead of places like Halifax and Winnipeg in terms of numbers of U.S.-bound passengers and those airports … already have pre-clearance. No-one has ever said no – they’ve just said the timing isn’t quite right yet.”
However, Deluce says Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Washington Dulles are also of interest as potential destinations in their own right and so, should Porter Airlines decide to launch service to Washington D.C. sooner rather than later, it appears likely that either BWI or IAD will be the first airport at which Porter alights in the Washington metropolitan area.