The man who’s driving Air Canada crazy

How Robert Deluce took over a Toronto airport, launched Porter Airlines and screwed over Air Canada

Photograph Jessica Darmanin /Andrew Tolson

At first glance, Robert Deluce seems an unlikely giant killer. The founder and chief executive of Toronto-based Porter Airlines stands shorter than many of the retro-uniformed flight attendants working his airplanes, and his small-town Ontario mannerisms—unfailingly polite with a tendency to ramble—are about as far away from Bay Street big shot as you can get.

On a recent afternoon, he ambled through the departure lounge of Porter’s terminal at the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and chatted awkwardly with pilots and other staff, resembling a sort of Columbo of Canadian commercial aviation, minus the scruffy trench coat. And like the fictional TV detective, he is not to be underestimated.

Just ask Air Canada. The country’s biggest airline has unsuccessfully waged a four-year battle aimed at forcing its way back into Toronto’s tiny island airport, a 90-second ferry ride from downtown, after one of Deluce’s companies bought the airport’s terminal from the private company that previously owned it and promptly had Air Canada evicted. The shrewd tactic gave Porter an effective monopoly at the airport in the run-up to its 2006 launch, a protection that was bolstered by a deal with the airport’s operator, the Toronto Port Authority, or TPA, that guaranteed Porter the lion’s share of available takeoff and landing “slots” for more than three years. Not surprisingly, Air Canada cried foul and launched a flurry of legal actions—all of which were either withdrawn or thrown out by the courts.

This year, however, Porter’s monopoly will end and Air Canada will finally have its shot at revenge. While Porter will still dominate— with a stranglehold on the airport’s slots and a growing share of the lucrative business travel market in the busy “eastern triangle” of Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal—Air Canada’s return to the island could spell trouble for the still fragile airline as it seeks to make itself a permanent fixture on the Canadian aviation landscape.

The battle has grown increasingly personal. In addition to stealing Air Canada’s most important customers—deep-pocketed corporate types, not to mention government ministers en route to Ottawa—in its most important market (while forcing it to watch from the sidelines), Deluce has foisted other indignities on its much larger rival. A few weeks ago, it was revealed that he and his wife have spent the past two decades flying around the world on Air Canada’s dime, racking up about $10,000 a month in air fares to London, Los Angeles, Vancouver and elsewhere. The free flights, some of which Deluce says were used for business purposes, were part of a deal struck when Deluce’s family sold its interest in Air Ontario and Austin Airways to Air Canada in 1986. “There were no restrictions on what we could use the travel arrangements for,” Deluce says.

Air Canada disagreed. It abruptly cut him off last year. Now Deluce is suing for breach of contract, claiming it’s yet another effort by Air Canada to “throw Porter off its game.” He says that, before Air Canada pulled the plug, he felt like he was being treated differently than other passengers, which in the past few years included “secondary searches and anything else that might be in the neighbourhood of harassment.” An Air Canada spokesperson declined to comment.

So how, exactly, did Deluce manage to repeatedly outmanoeuvre—and embarrass—an airline whose size and dominance has helped speed the demise of a long list of failed challengers? A unique and meticulously planned business model had a lot do with it. But he also received an unusual level of assistance from the airport’s troubled operator—and, it turns out, the federal government. The big question, however, is whether he can maintain the momentum he has built in a notoriously unforgiving industry.

Prior to Porter’s arrival, the island airport was a sleepy place. Catering mostly to hobby pilots, it was served by a rickety open-air ferry and a wood-framed terminal that dated from the late 1930s.

Passenger traffic through the airport hit a peak of 400,000 annually in the 1980s and dwindled to a low of about 25,000 in 2005 as Air Canada, which had operated there since 1990, began moving more flights over to Toronto Pearson International Airport, its main Canadian hub.

Today, by contrast, the island is busier than ever. Porter now flies 20 Bombardier Q400 turboprops to nine destinations in Canada, including Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax, and four in the U.S., including New York and Chicago. Last week, it signalled that it planned to continue its expansion with the purchase of four more planes, with the option to add as many as six more. Airport traffic, meanwhile, has ballooned to between 1.2 million and 1.3 million passengers a year.

Just as important as the head count are people’s impressions of Porter’s service—with its swank airport lounge featuring free cappuccinos. Once onboard, passengers are offered snacks, tucked inside a box displaying the airline’s Mr. Porter raccoon mascot, and complimentary glasses of wine or beer. But Porter’s biggest differentiator is the convenience of flying from the island, a $10 cab ride from Toronto’s financial district. By contrast, a flight on Air Canada through Pearson generally requires a $50 or $60 cab fare, a half hour spent navigating the city’s congested highway system and then more time spent in lineups. “The big problem with Pearson is the incredible amount of waste that takes place when you have to wait there for hours and hours,” says Doug Reid, a business professor at Queen’s University and former TPA board member.

It also helps that Porter is the only airline currently allowed to take advantage of the island airport’s strategic location. Reid says Deluce’s genius was to convince a money-losing TPA that they had a shared interest. As a federal port authority, the TPA is a non-profit corporation charged with overseeing Toronto’s port-related activities. But it was having trouble paying the bills, given the lack of shipping traffic on Toronto’s waterfront. The airport, on the other hand, offered more earning potential, but only if it had a committed airline partner (the TPA oversees the airport in accordance with the rules set out in a complicated tripartite agreement between itself, Ottawa and the city of Toronto). In short, Deluce needed the airport and the TPA needed a meal ticket.

Fortunately for Deluce, the TPA was fed up with Air Canada after years spent coaxing it to invest more heavily in the airport. “They restricted their service down to three flights a day, allowed their terminal lease to expire and refused to sign a new [operating agreement],” says Geoffrey Wilson, the TPA’s new chief executive. “The TPA had no choice but to say, ‘If you’re not going to sign and you’re not going to invest, we think, as a business, that we need to find another solution.”

Recognizing that Air Canada would grind any new competitor into the ground, the TPA agreed in 2005 to grant Deluce’s proposed airline an effective monopoly at the airport for at least three years to give it a fighting chance. And it received approval to do so from the federal competition board, which reasoned Air Canada was already the dominant carrier serving Toronto via Pearson.

The TPA’s help didn’t end there. To keep its prime tenant happy, it purchased a new ferry to handle the expected increase in traffic, and then another one when Porter outgrew the first. There are now plans to connect the island to the mainland via a $45-million pedestrian tunnel (an earlier plan to build a bridge was killed by the city’s mayor amid protests from local residents). “The hidden secret here—and this is where I give Deluce an awful lot of credit—is that he in effect has the port authority working for him,” says Reid. “The port authority primarily exists to make sure Bob Deluce is happy.” While Air Canada has loudly protested the cozy relationship, the courts have taken a different view. A federal judge concluded last month that there was no evidence to suggest “TPA and Porter were doing anything more than engaging in normal commercial activity.”

Deluce has also received considerable support from the federal government. More than half of Porter’s current fleet of 20 aircraft, worth more than $500 million, was financed with loans from Export Development Canada. EDC loans typically go to foreign companies seeking to buy Canadian products, but Phil Taylor, a spokesperson for the agency, says recent rule changes allow it to “take on domestic financing and insurance without a link to exports.” In the case of Porter, Taylor says the agency noted the airline planned to use the aircraft to launch new U.S. routes.

Fred Lazar, an economics professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business who provided guidance on Porter’s business plan, says Deluce took advantage of Ottawa’s longstanding political desire to assist Bombardier, which was having trouble generating initial interest in its Q400 turboprops. Deluce disputes the suggestion that Porter’s EDC loans were unusual, but doesn’t deny Ottawa’s interest in the airport’s success. “I think, generally, the federal government is interested in airports being self-sustaining and not falling back on the public purse.”

With Porter now well on its way, the airport’s operator is once again in the black, earning $1.3 million last year, a figure that should increase as the airport is opened to other airlines. The TPA recently granted 30 new daily slots to Air Canada’s regional carrier Jazz and 16 to Continental Airlines. Calin Rovinescu, the CEO of Air Canada, recently told analysts on a conference call that the airline intends to return service as soon as possible. “Our expectation is that we’ll have a good solid operation from the airport,” he said. But Deluce isn’t worried. Porter came away with 44 additional slots, bringing its total to 156 of the airport’s 202 takeoffs and landings. In other words, Porter will be flying nearly as many daily flights to Ottawa as Air Canada will be offering to all destinations from the island.

Yet, even with the advantages handed to it, Porter has not managed to turn a consistent profit. Documents provided to regulators for an initial public offering last spring (the IPO was pulled following the European financial crisis) showed an airline that was increasing sales, but still wallowing in red ink. Although Porter managed to eke out a slight $455,000 profit in the fourth quarter of 2009, it lost $4.6 million last year on sales of $151 million. It posted another $5.9-million loss in the first quarter of this year.

Air Canada’s return to the island promises further hits to Porter’s bottom line. But Deluce still has one more ace up his sleeve. Since he owns the terminal and associated equipment, he is now the airport’s de facto landlord (he says he’s currently negotiating with Air Canada to lease space in the terminal). “If you really look at the airline industry, the people who own the infrastructure and the ones who run the (aircraft) leasing companies—they’re the ones who really make the money,” says Lazar. “The airlines, by and large, are lucky if they break even.”

Which means Deluce could still come out on top, even if Porter ultimately loses its long battle with Air Canada. No wonder he chose a pest—Mr. Porter the raccoon—as his airline’s mascot.




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The man who’s driving Air Canada crazy

  1. A frequent flyer on both Air Canada and Porter, I wish them both success. There's plenty of room for each if egos and excessive growth don't get in the way.

    • That's what competetion is all about -live and let live !

    • Oh please! Have an opinion. Porter went to the island airport, took a failing operation that the almighty Air Canda couldn't make work, and has since handed them their ass on a platter. There is nothing that Porter is doing that AC could not have done 5 or 10 years before, but they didn't. Now the Air Canadata tactic is to have their legal department try to make it up. You play the competition for points, not the referee, and Porter is doing that – with the flying customer. Go Porter!

      • OK, I'll just go to the extreme on every opinion from now on, since calm isn't welcome on comment boards. :)

        Porter is fantastic. I LOVE that they're handing AC their ass on a platter. But I love international travel on AC. Hopefully this is acceptable for you.

    • That´s absolutely correct what you say! I fully underline that!

  2. If he's 'screwing over' Air Canada, great! They've been screwing over the consumer for how long? At least with Porter, I know what a ticket to/from Sudbury/Toronto will cost. With Air Canada, I'm not sure what the cost is … maybe it depends on the phase of the moon.

    • try airline fares in Europe and Asia if you want to know what being screwed over means. I mean Cathay.

      • actually fred, when I lived in London for five years I never paid lower airline fees than what I could get there. Fly to Dublin for 10 pounds? Amsterdam for 20? Madrid for 15? Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world and due to the plethora of flights, cheap tix. Ask any backpacker who is living in London why they live there and they will say the cheap tickets. Why should I have to pay $700 for a one way to Toronto or Vancouver on AC when I can get a cheaper ticket to either there?

        Who would fly Cathay in Europe anyways?

  3. I think it's great that Air Canada now has some real competition…they may even figure out the meaning of "customer service" I have never seen bad service on any other airline like Air Canada. The pricing structure is way out of line compared to other air line companies, I don't know how they stay in business. Good luck Porter!!!!

    • I didn't price Porter on my last trip to NL, as Pearson is far more accessible for me – but Air Canada is almost always cheaper than WestJet (which I have, as a result, never flown). I'm not terribly impressed by AC's level of customer service, but over the years I haven't found it noticeably worse than other airlines I've flown.

      This time around, we went with Sunquest. The planes were older (and more cramped on the way down, but oddly with plenty of legroom on the return trip), but we were served a free meal (unlike AC) while saving about $300. Less convenient? Yes, but not so much as to negate a $300 savings.

      Those whom I know who have flown Porter have been impressed. If Pearson wasn't so handy for me, I'd be tempted to try them myself.

      • The fare ususually matches Air Canada. They are clearly focusing on convenience and service.

    • The customer service on Air Canada used to be excellent. It is still at least good most of the time I take it (which is almost every time I fly), but Customer Service has declined. Air Canada employees sometimes treat customers with impatience and contempt–they never used to so act. I suspect they are being defensive–so many people criticize them that a vicious circle results: AC employees thing the customers are their enemy, not their paycheque.

      Everyone can have a bad day–no one can totally separate private from professional life, and it's inevitable that from time to time, after a death family member or friend, the reception of a serious health diagnosis, or being asked by a customer to register a few minutes before the end of a long, hot shift will occasionally take its toll in the form of discourtesy or even a hostile attitude towards customers. I think that at Trudeau, the necessity to be trilingual (English, French & Québécois) adds to stres of Air Canada personnel there, and thereby lowers their customer service. I don't know if all these factors that affect customer service of employees of other companies as much as of Air Canada ones.

      These concessions made to AC employees, who are human and often feel frustrations similar to those of passengers and equally beyond their control, having been made, I stress to Air Canada Management that REVIEW COURSES IN CUSTOMER SERVICE AND AIRPORT + IN-FLIGHT COURTESY are an absolute MUST, given the relative decline in customer service–notably as regards elementary courtesy towards passengers.

      Fares when I flew out west this summer were identical on AC & West Jet (the latter has a disconcerting habit of sending you to Regina via… Calgary!!! As for making you pay for everyting, I have heard that that's not the case on Porter, but I'd willingly pay AC 50 $ more per ticket to have the mals and entertainment you used to get on AC in the 70s, 80s & part of the 90s without having to fish for your wallet–at the risk of not plaing it back in your pocket properly.

      So AC: I like your emloyees and indeed the company (except for the Embraer aircraft)–but PLEASE have all employees undergo regular review courses and assessments re customer service, and bring back your neal & entertainment service level of the 1970s. Flying with you then was a pleasure; now, it's overall an ORDEAL!

    • I found Porter to be just so much more relaxing, all staff were wonderfull I fly from Halifax to Toronto, have used Air canada and may more, looking forward to hearing that Porter will be hanging in there far into the future,have heard nothing but good reports on them..GO PORTER GO.

    • barb same reply as to Jac – millions have been surveyed that disagree with your opinion.

    • they stay in business because your opinion is a tiny minority that nothing satisfies.

  4. ac cust. service to canadians from day one to canadian locations was,is pothetic. with out politics and subsidies they would be long gone years ago

    • I gather, Barb, that you have never flown on any American carrier. Air Canada' service, bad as you may think it is, is head and shoulders above any of the US carriers. I flew to Amsterdam on KLM four years ago and was only too happy, on my return flight, to get to Toronto where I could board an AC flight to come home to Vancouver. Careful what you wish for, you might get it! As far as Sedi is concerned, politics was a bogyman that the Know-nothings came up with in order to have a talking point against AC. Jean Chretien hated AC and even with all of his support Canadian couldn't make it nor could CPA before it even it CPA was given fully one-half the world to service. Contrary to the Know-nothing propaganda, AC had exactly NO support from the Canadian taxpayer–this was simply a lie.

    • What in the world is "Pothetic"?

      • Your a douche for commenting on someone's spelling mistake. Get over yourself. Who cares?

        • It's not called "spelling mistake" when half the words in a one line sentence are either wrong or lack any meaning in the context. This person can't even put together a basic sentence, yet he talks about AC's customer service from "day one".

        • You're.

    • sedi – Taxpayers have been paying for the infrastructure for Porter's monopoly. Taxpayers are funding Porter's purchase of aircraft through the EDC

  5. Porter has the right recipe for success: they understand that people who fly for business or pleasure enjoy being treated as welcome guests. I don't fly any more with Air Canada, which charges for everything, delivers nothing, and listens to no one. West Jet was good until they decided that they would like to emulate Air Canada. Hooray for more Porter destinations!

    • Let's wait and see if Porter can actually make a single dime, before considering they are successful or not. So far all they've done is rack up debt, despite all the loan guarantees from the fed.

  6. I do my best to avoid flying Air Canada, it only happens when they are the only flight available. This past March when flying for the first time with AC after many years (fortunately I could avoid them) I encountered horrible Customer Service yet again. I called ahead with my peanut allergy as it is recommended on the AC website. When on the plane I was treated so poorly by the head stewardess and totally embarressed by her actually yelling at me. She approached me and asked if I was the one with the allergy and when I said yes she asked me if I had a doctor's note. I giggled in shock and said no. She said it was my responsibility to have one. I asked her where on the AC website did it state that and that's when she started to yell at me. I looked away to de-escalate the situation and then she yelled at me again to look at her when she's talking to me. Great Customer Service once again Air Canada! Long live WestJet and Porter!

    • You should be more careful who you dis on the flight. You`re lucky that Head stewardess didn`t engage the emergency chute and launch you and you`re peanut allergy into the skies.

      • Hilarious Ralph! You are correct though. My career focus is on preventing Workplace Violence and promoting Respectful Communication. I have to admit the situation was scary. You can't really defend yourself as you are a captive audience. I was extremely aware of my body language and tone as I knew we had a big audience and I certainly didn't want security waiting for me when we landed. When I state "scary" I certainly am not stating I was afraid for my own safety, it was the fact that as a passenger you have no control while you are in the sky over poor behaviour. At least on the ground in the past when AC "misplaces" my luggage I have "equal footing".

    • People don't shout at others for no reason, specially those trained in the industry. I'm 100% sure you're just blowing this out of proportions. Remember, there are always two sides to a story: Your side, his/her side and the truth.

      • Absolutely. The initials bs came immediately to mind.

        • I agree with all of you. I'm sure she had many other things going on and when I asked about where on the website it stated that I'm sure she immediately became defensive and took it as a challenge instead of an information seeking question. Virtually all disagreements have nothing to do with the conversation at hand but all the precipitating factors leading up to her being unreasonable with me. Trust me she was unreasonable. I'm no saint, we all wish at some point we could take back our behaviours. I think because of my ongoing frustrations of AC that there is obviously a bigger problem with management that our stewards at AC feel so much pressure. At least she didn't pull the shoot and grab a couple of beer!

    • I guess you don't travel far or else you like the stops. Your story sounds made up to me.

  7. Go Porter I am so sick of Air Canadas rudeness and being babies and being disrespectful they are never happy and always complaining. With Porter they're totally whay they're motto says "Flying Redifined" I am aggarvated with the TPA Air Canada should stay at Pearson and not be a disgrace to the country

    • I notice that now that Westjet is becoming an airline rather than a small, hick, provincial carrier, its down-home, aw-shucks image is also disappearing. Face it, this is a business not some massage parlor where your little whims are all catered to– a business that provides a safe transport for you from point A to point B, not a touchy-feely joke dispensing feel good parlor. Why don't you all grow up already?

      • Touchy -feeley??? How about the bare minimum of customer service.. AC is the worst. They make you feel like they are doing you a big favour letting you on the plane.. they would do well to remember without the customer , they are not a business. I am another that prefers just about any other airline but AC. Go Porter.

    • Brian B – you are a dullard – look it up.

  8. Oh by the way I am still waiting for a response from an issues at the SJD airport where Air Canada's Name wasn't anywhere to be found like they think that consumers should know their alliance partners like that so basically took us 40 mins. to try to find where to check-in never got a response and would be surprised if I ever did. Also, the head flight attendant on a flight I was on was like definitely not bright at all and didn't know where the exits were and such didn't feel safe so GO PORTER & WEST JET: Air Canada you bring this on yourself your crews are rude and lack customer service skills this will be my third year into an AC Boycott

    • Let me guess, you flew a codeshare and never bothered to look at your ticket to read where it says just below the flight number: "Operated by XXX"? You can't blame others for your own ignorance.

    • And, like, you know, whatever!

    • Brian – To say the FA didn't know where the exits were is an outright lie and whatever else you say is probably a lie also.

    • Brian I feel for you. I hope you had someone show you the way out of the airplane at the end of the flight as you obviously need it.

  9. Seems like a rare situation where a private organization and a public organization work for each others benefit, with a side effect being a win-win for the public on top of that (cheaper regional flights and a profitable, self-sustaining port authority).

    I've only flown into the island airport once (on Jazz) before the improvements and it was already 1,000 times better than landing at Pearson.

    I hope Porter and the TPA keep it up!

  10. I say Go Porter! I no longer feel Air Canada is 'our airline' but Porter is from here. Air Canada made its own bed.

    As a related comment, in recent years flying international routes from Toronto to Rome to Cairo to Istanbul, the single most unpleasant experience was with Air Canada staff at Pearson who were intentionally unhelpful and flat-out rude. I am njot new at this – I have been flying Air Canada since it was TCA with Viscounts and Vanguards. They lost me for good that day.

    Go Porter!

    • Go to Rome, Cairo or Istanbul on Porter old son! If you can.

    • Good luck with Porter getting you to Rome, Cairo, Istanbul
      Seems to me Rome – Istanbul – Cairo would work better.

  11. Air Canada had its chance for years at the island airport. Now we want PORTER. People from AC should take a Porter flight and see how it is to "Fly Refined". Porter is a family owned Canadian company and deserves every success.

    • Porter has not made money since it's inception. Their advertising budget is far higher than what is normal for any business. i would give them another 2 years at the outside before they are no longer plying the friendly skies. Funny thing, several of my friends have recently done transatlantic trips on AC and were very impressed. I find this herd mentality regarding AC quite comical. Perhaps some of the posters should get out and fly in the real world.

      • Please note that my trips are usually international. During my Customer Service presentations I often ask people where have you recently experienced good Customer Service. Answers are usually Westjet and Porter. When asked where have you recently experienced poor Customer Service (which gives reason to the "herd mentality" because most experience just that) I virtually always hear AC. I do agree with you in that AC has many fantastic services unfortunately Customer Service is not one of them.

    • You sound like you work for Porter. Alas, competition is always good, but Porter is a tiny little airline that can't even compete with Jazz, let alone AC.

      • Haha! I liked that, perhaps a good retirement job! I'm actually a Clincal Nurse Specialist and work for an Acute Care Hospital.

        • I was talking about what "Lucille" wrote, not you Jennifer.

  12. What??? People looking for customer service and to be treated with courtesy?????? People actually like that?????

    I am shocked!

  13. I recently arrived in Vancouver past the time needed to make a trip to Victoria via ferry. After having been away for three weeks my son was missing me like crazy so I went to the AC counter to see about a flight from Vancouver to Victoria and was told there were several seats available for the 2215 hrs flight. When I asked how much the tickets were (expecting $150 range) I almost fell over when I was told it was $500 and change. Needless to say I spent the night at a hotel and caught the ferry in the morning. Good old AC charging a ridiculous amount of money and instead of sending over a full plane was happier to send one with empty seats. And they wonder why they're teetering on financial ruin…. Don't know Porter Airlines but would fly with them, or anyone else, besides AC. The few times where I've had no choice but to fly AC I was also appalled at the level of customer service – NON EXISTENT!! AC, you suck!

    • You could have swam to Victoria. It would have been a nice workout too.

    • Murray you dont have a clue do you?

  14. I have had wonderful service flying Air Canada, Jazz and its code share companies. Thank you to all their employees for delivering me safely to destinations all over the world for over 25 years of regular flying. When it comes to the cost of air travel we would be wise, as consumers, not to encourage a race to the bottom. How much is the safety of you and your loved ones worth? I have not had the privilege of flying with Porter but hope to have that experience at some point. It is a hard enough business running an airline and I am still thankful for the "privilege" to fly and glad there are still "Canadian" companies to chose from.

    • Meg, I think you're the only person out of all the other commentators on here who actually knows what she is talking about.

    • Air tickets for same day travel is usually full fare with most regular airlines (I'm not talking about low cost airlines). It's called Yield Management. The cheapest tickets come with sale conditions (i.e. Advance purchase rule)

      Regarding fares in general, I am personally ready to pay more for better service. Cheap ticket = cheap service.
      Regarding staff behavior, AC is know for their rudeness. But they are not all like that. Many are very customer service oriented. And after all, they are human being, their behavior is just the result of poor top management.

    • I agree with you Meg….I only Fly with Air Canada.. I flow Porter.. it is good for the short trip…

      best of luck for them… but Air Canada is a monster beside Porter….lots of them have tried but failed….Air Canada survived :)..

    • I want to put in a good word for Air Canada. As I am British and my wife is a Vancouverite, I spend a lot of my time commuting between London (UK) and Vancouver. Most of the trips are by Air Canada. They have always been a friendly bunch.

      The only time I was slightly miffed with them was in 2003 when they suddenly pulled only me, an Indian man, out of a line of White people trooping into their plane and gave me a body check. I don't wear a beard and am not a card-carrying Al-Qaeda guy, so this somewhat disconcerted me – though it was the stuff of great laughter among my Canadian relatives.

      They have gone out of their way to help quite a few times. Like the time I was stranded in a completely snowed up Calgary and they ransacked heaven and earth to get me on a tiny 50 seater to Vancouver that flew so low over the mountains I thought I could touch the snow peaks. Last Christmas I bought some brandy on the plane and when I was getting off in Vancouver the smiling staff heard the bottles clinking and suggested I leave them behind for their Christmas party.

      They are a nice lot.

  15. QUESTION: What is the origin of the name "Porter" airline?
    Perhaps from latin…"to carry". (Or "porter" who carries your bags?)
    Please advise.
    Porter has gained healthy importance as a brand name and rings good bells.
    I look forward to flying porter
    Happy landings,
    Pancho Shiell

  16. Between that guy who used to fly in Viscounts, and the other guy who doesn't know code-sharing, most people on here seem like amateurs who fly a roundtrip to CUN once a year at most and yet they have such strong opinions on a subject so varied such as Air Travel.

    AC has improved drastically in the past few years, and noticeably in the past 2 years and in all honestly, customer service has never been a focus of any major Canadian company, just go to blogs filled with screaming mad comments about Rogers, Bell or even The TTC as Canadian consumers have little choice or real competition given the small population relative to the larger size, yet the Canadian consumer expects similar service levels to that one can receive in the USA given the competition there and frankly in this aspect AC has been doing far better than others. They are a step above the US domestic operators, backed by multiple awards.

    To even compare Porter in any shape or form as a competition to AC, is just plain ignorant and tells me the person has absolutely no clue what they are talking about. Porter is a tiny regional airline that flies in to a dozen cities with a small fleet of turboprops. AC flies to 100s of cities either by itself, or through Star Alliance partners.

    Comparing Porter to AC is like comparing apples to grapes!

    I won't even start with the fact porter hasn't turned over a single cent since they started operation with complete monopoly of the island airport.

    P.S: Someone mentioned Porter is a family owned business in their praise of Porter. It always makes me wonder why people think a family owned business is somehow superior to a company with public share holders. I understand the psychology of the word "family" making people feel better but in the real world, it makes no difference who actually owns the company. All companies are out there to make money, family owned or not.

    P.P.S: People have forgotten this is the same Robert Deluce who owned Canada 3000. Remember how many people were stranded overnight and at foreign airports when he cashed in his check and let the airline fold on itself? This guy has a chronic history of opening airlines that make zero profit before going belly up. I don't understand who still would lend this guy the money to it over and over again, but he seems to somehow do it.

    • Now why do I get the feeling that Peter works for Air Canada? We're not all 'professional' air travellers, Pete! We're just a bunch of poor, ordinary, folks, who want to get from point A to point B, and not be insulted. We're not mind readers, nor are we privy to all the nuances of information that you seem privy to. Lucky you! The reason that people complain about poor service is because that service is very poor and some of those working for these companies are just extraordinarily rude. At one time, there was this antiquated notion that the customer was always right. While this isn't true, what is a fact is that since customers are asked to pay money for reasonable, polite service, so the least we should be assured is that we get good service, with a smile. Is that really too much to ask?

      Jac

      • Haha, nice try. Well I don't work for AC or any airline. In fact my line of work doesn't even come close to travel industry. I do however rack up at least 100'000 miles on AC alone every year due to my job, so I say I'm a very experienced traveller on AC. To put it in to perspective, a one-way from Toronto to Vancouver is about 2000 miles.

        Of course there is always good and bad service, however as I mentioned, from my perspective as someone who flies AC quite a lot, they have drastically improved. There is a new generation of flight attendants who are replacing the older generation and I have received fantastic service from these young guys and girls.

        All I'm saying is don't bash any company based on a very limited sample of your experiences.

        Air Canada is far from perfect, but compared to the American carriers (trust me on this one, I rack up at least 30'000 miles on them a year) they are by far hundreds of times better!

        Is there room for improvement? yes of course, there always is.

        BTW, if you want to be assured you will get good service with a smile, try Singapore Air. They will always provide you service with smile, but they charge you an arm and a leg for it too! Unfortunately in the world of air travel cost cutting has its disadvantages. You can't fly super cheap and expect Singapore Air type of service. I'm not defending it, just putting it in to perspective.

      • Jac – millions have been surveyed and they disagree with your opinion.

  17. I have no idea what it is like to fly Porter but I know I love flying Air Canada. I feel safer flying on their flights than on other airlines.
    I have been flying Air Canada for 40 years and have never been treated badly by it's employees. They have always been professional and helpful. I think we are very fortunate to be able to fly on the safest airline in the world and which has been winning awards as the best airline in Canada for years.

    • And how long have you worked for them?

  18. I am a frequent business flyer who has oscillated between Air Canada Elite and Super Elite status for the past 15 years. I typically make about 50 flights a year, but have had some years with over 100. That's a lot of flying. I get to fly on airlines around the world, and as a former commercial pilot, think I know a little bit about the business.

    For those who have not flown Porter, it is a breath of fresh air. Prompt, friendly customer-oriented service is so rare in the airline industry these days. Door-to-door, from my office in downtown Toronto to a meeting in Ottawa is invariably 1-2 hours faster with Porter. That's a lot of time to be saved, and it's less expensive too when you factor in taxi fares and airport fees.

    My US colleagues from Boston, NY and Chicago rave about flying Porter. There's nothing like it. It truly serves the local business market and the service is impeccable.

    Porter will never be Air Canada – at least not in the foreseeable future – with the latter providing service around the world. That's Air Canada's forte, and I appreciate their fleet modernizations with the Boeings replacing the irritating Airbuses.

    But AC has never properly served the business flyer in local dense markets such as Toronto. When they were at the Island Airport before, they had a tacky shoe string operation flying cramped Dash 8s with no customer amenities. The "Terminal" was a broken down drafty wooden structure with no chairs and it was never fun standing outside on a ferry when the temperature was -10 and the wind was whipping off Lake Ontario. AC abandoned the Island as well as Buttonville airport (acquired when they took over Canadian) when those locations were cannibalizing the expensive gate fees at the overpriced Pearson airport.

    AC made its bet on Pearson – for better or for worse. I'd much rather fly Porter's quiet and comfortable Q400s than AC's noisy and cold Beech 1900s (really!) and vintage Dash 8s. Porter has designed a model based on customer service. I do hope that Bob Deluce is able to make a successful run at it and wish Porter the best of success. For local flying, he has my vote.

    • AIR WHO/never get there AIR!!!! Fly Porter—- I will travel by air again and YES I am a pro 30+years in the airline biz and its not with AC or Porter. But Porter now have all my eastern biz and hope they expand.

  19. Giant killers are supposed to be tiny – it accentuates the differences between the giant and themselves.

  20. Is this guy paying taxes on his 10000$+/month benefit that he get's from AirCanada?

  21. I only fly WestJet and have for many years. Air Canada has a reputation for poor service and customer relations . . . believe me, they earned it! I have no intention of darkening the doorway of their planes ever again!

    • with your attitude I expect that would please them

  22. It's a shame Chris Sorensen chooses to undermine his generally well written articles with childish and personal comments such as" stands shorter than many of the retro-uniformed flight attendants" and resembling a sort of Columbo of Canadian commercial aviation".. Chris why do you choose to minimize your professional standing with such comments…..

  23. I wish Porter came out West. I can't stand AC even though I'm a AC Super Elite (not by choice).

    • You hate Westjest also. How interesting.

  24. Money makes wonderful grease with the TPA and Ottawa, so that Canadian taxpayers would foot the bill for Porter. Taxpayers pay for the airport infrastructure and Taxpayers will take the hit when Porter cannot pay its' EDC loan. Of course Ottawa will just write the debt off when Porter defaults.
    Porter is highly leveraged and smart Investors turned their backs on the Porter IPO. If Porter lost money with a monopoly how will Porter fare with a third or more of their passengers opting fo the 2 alternatives. Market conditions will not be more favourable for a Porter IPO for at least another year or more. They've taken on more debt to simply increase the numbers, that doesn't mean profits. The Island airport lives a tenuous existence. There is no guarantee that some unforeseen event will not cause Ottawa to introduce limitations there. When has Ottawa backed anything that makes money for the Taxpayer? Go Porter, spend their money.

  25. "Documents provided to regulators for an initial public offering last spring (the IPO was pulled following the European financial crisis) showed an airline that was increasing sales, but still wallowing in red ink. Although Porter managed to eke out a slight $455,000 profit in the fourth quarter of 2009, it lost $4.6 million last year on sales of $151 million. It posted another $5.9-million loss in the first quarter of this year."

    You're funny Sorensen. The IPO failed because Porter doesn't have a consistent record of profit. Good luck trying to pump this company. It sounds like their cash outflow is still greater than their inflow and they have new competitors to make sure that trend continues. However good Porter's service may be, Porter is still not at the point where investors feel airline has a chance to survive.

  26. Given Deluce's long history of failed airlines, I don't believe that he really ever expected Porter to be in business for the long-term. I suspect his goal has always been to gain long-term leases on some of the most valuable property in downtown Toronto. Which he has quietly and effectively done, despite the City's oft-stated preference to turn the airport lands into parks for the benefit of ALL citizens of Toronto – (not just for the time convenience of a small corporate and government elite). With the opaque and shifty TPA in his back pocket, Deluce has managed one of the craftiest land grabs in recent memory. As he's done in the past, he can easily return the Q400's to their lessors, leave a bunch of passengers stranded, tell his young (non-union) employees to go home, and he's still left with control of the terminals. The real jewel in all this mess (note that the terminal operation was not included in the IPO).

  27. Air Canada, ignorant ,rude ,surly and dirty.West Jet & Porter by default.

    • Many people in this blog are unhappy about Air Canada. So I hope the management will recognize its weaknesses and start to reinvent service and quality.

  28. I fail to see how anybody can find love in their hearts for Air Canada, unless of course you work there.

  29. Air Canada, being too big to fail, is essentially a government airline whose profits are given away and whose corporate officers make vastly more than any civil servant ever would. It abandoned the Island airport, and Porter is attempting to make a business flying out of there, which sounds well and good to me. Air Canada should remember that fits of pique make for very bad business decisions. And corporate executives deserve their huge salaries because they don't make bad business decisions, right?

  30. In order to survive, AC had to cut costs when they were forced to absorb CPAir. Not to mention paying for the staff to learn mandatory French. How many airlines in Canada have to do that?
    Those whiners would be the first to complain if AC were to fail.
    Do you know how to spell loyalty boys and girls?
    AC is still one of the top, safest, best airlines in the world. Think of what the flight attendants have to put up with in a day.

    My hat is off to them.

  31. For the price of a airline ticket to fly in canada and to fly somewhere else. It cost more to fly in our own country than it does to fly out. I'll be taking a little drive to Grand forks ND to get my next flight for vaction. At half price. Including gas and parking. Bye bye air canada and westjet. You don't like losing business. Well that's business is it not. You win some you lose a lot more.

  32. I must say Robert Deluce can do it because he he had great experience ahead

  33. Who in their right mind would want to land at Pearson when you can land at Toronto Island, a hop, skip and a jump from downtown Toronto ? Nobody who knows a thing or two about Toronto, that is. And that's the brilliance behind Mr Deluce. My wife has often flied Porter from Ottawa. It's quick and efficient. Kudos to Porter and long live this company.

  34. The success or failure of an enterprise is wholly determined by the free market.
    Air Canada needs to get busy shaving costs and bumping service.

  35. Last time I flew AC was to Vancouver for Christmas 3 years ago. After take off the staff disappeared into thin air and no food or drink was ever offered for purchase during the flight. A few months ago I went to London via Air India – restricted fare was $1000.00 less than AC, other than the secondary security search I got real cutlery, two decent meals during the flight while the staff was friendly and available. I got my vacation for what AC wanted just for airfare. AC is only a last resort if nothing else is available.

  36. Not having to go all the freakin way to Pearson for a short flight is amazing. I hate Pearson.

  37. Most of you are clueless about the airline industry…all that matters for a lot of consumers is the cheapest ticket and be damned any idea of safety or professional standards. You are wiling to pay 50.00 dollars for a cabfare to the airport and want your ticket to be as cheap. Hello!!!! It costs 10 million to do an engine change on a modern jet; nothing is getting any cheaper…gas, maintenance, landing fees, airport improvement fees. I would bet that most of the complainers about Air Canada or westjet have flown them once in the last couple of years from Toronto to Montreal. The same ones who perpetuate the myth that Air Canada gets help from the government or its still a crown corporation. Very hard to listen to the nattering nabob of negativism and ignorance.

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