CCO Interview: Porter Airlines Debuts Fort Lauderdale Nonstops

CCO Interview: Porter Airlines Debuts Fort Lauderdale Nonstops

DALLAS — Yesterday, November 30, Porter Airlines (PD) expanded its flights from Eastern Canada to Florida with two new routes from Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) and Ottawa/Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (YOW) to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL).

These new routes offer the airline’s elevated economy experience, which includes free inflight WiFi. Complimentary beer, wine, and premium snacks are provided to all passengers. In addition, PorterReserve fares offer benefits such as priority check-in, extra legroom seats, premium cocktails, and fresh meals. All the PD Florida-bound flights will be operated on the Embraer E195-E2 aircraft, which has a two-by-two seating configuration, eliminating middle seats.

This expansion allows passengers to experience the airline’s style and charm on their entire journey to South Florida and Western Canada destinations like Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver, with connections in Toronto and Ottawa.

At the FLL launch, Airways had the opportunity to speak with Kevin Jackson, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer of Porter Airlines, who expressed excitement about offering the elevated economy experience to more destinations in Florida.

Comments from Porter Airlines COO Kevin Jackson

HV: Can you give us a rundown of the Embraer aircraft orders from your airline?

KJ: So initially, we placed an order for 80 aircraft. It was back in July 2021: 30 firm orders and 50 options. Right after announcing that order, we then increased that to 50 firm orders and 50 options for a total of 100 aircraft.

So yesterday, we announced that we would convert 25 of those options to firm orders. And so now we are committed to taking delivery of 75 of those 100 aircraft between now and 2027.

Can you tell us more about the airline’s expansion timeline in the United States and the Caribbean?

As we launch the Embraer E195, the first two key markets for us are Toronto and Ottawa. Now, keeping in mind that our roots are at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, which is in downtown Toronto, we are launching the E195 at Toronto’s Pearson Airport.

That, combined with the aircraft, gives us full North American coverage. We are also launching that aircraft in Ottawa. And so we are initially building out our domestic network with the first deliveries.

Porter Airlines Embraer E195-E2 at FLL, aircraft stand view. Photo: Helwing Villamizar/Airways
Porter Airlines Embraer E195-E2 at FLL, aircraft stand view. Photo: Helwing Villamizar/Airways

We’ve spent most of the summer and fall expanding into Western Canada and further into Eastern Canada, so we are flying to every major market and many small and medium-sized markets in Canada. Now, we’re turning our sights to the US and expanding.

Florida is our first area of expansion with the E195. We’re going into five markets with seven routes. Ottawa goes to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, and then Toronto goes to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, but then also to Tampa, Fort Myers, and Miami. We launch in Miami next week.

Beyond that, we will continue to expand across the US. We’re launching into LA, San Francisco, and Las Vegas in the first quarter. And as we move through next year, you’ll continue to see more destinations in the US. We will begin to expand into the Caribbean and Mexico as well. That’s likely in 2024–25.

What about the competition from Canadian airlines and bigger players flying to western Canada or the US?

Certainly from Canada, Canadians tend to want to take a nonstop option, so they’re going to get on different Canadian carriers. Of course, I’m going to be biased and say that they’re going to get the best experience from us. And I think that’s true, and I say that for a couple of reasons.

One, I know that the product we offer our customers in Economy is unmatched by anyone in North America. Those are my remarks on that. But it isn’t just my opinion; it’s actually the customer who tells us that. We have the highest customer satisfaction of any airline in North America, at 85 to 90. We’ve got the highest net promoter score, at 70.

So our customers love our product, and as a result of that, I’m very confident that when they fly down to Florida, they’re going to have an exceptional experience, and they’ll choose us over alternative carriers.

Porter Airlines Embraer E195-E2 at FLL, exterior side view. Photo: Helwing Villamizar/Airways
Porter Airlines Embraer E195-E2 at FLL, exterior side view. Photo: Helwing Villamizar/Airways

One thing that Brad Cicero, Director of Communications & Public Affairs at Porter Airlines, mentioned to us last time was that it was really strange to see people come out of the gate happy. You are known for your exceptional service, so…

It’s funny that you say that about the view of people as they walk off the aircraft. One of my favorite things about working these inaugural flights—and I go to almost all of them—is that I greet the inbound airplane. And part of the enjoyment of that is watching the passenger step out of the airplane because you see how much they enjoyed their experience.

Because, especially in a market like Florida, Canadians come here a lot. They know what their options are. They’ve probably flown a preferred carrier for some time. They come, and they try us—it’s clearly different. And I see that in their faces, and I hear that when they talk to me as they get off the aircraft.

One of my favorite stories was when we launched Fort Myers just a couple of weeks ago. I had a guy who was, let’s just say, very loyal to another carrier, who said to me, “You guys have a winning product here.” Coming from a loyal carrier of another airline, that tells us we’ve got the right product.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport CEO Mark Gale. Photo: Helwing Villamizar/Airways
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport CEO Mark Gale. Photo: Helwing Villamizar/Airways

We also spoke with Mark Gale, CEO and Director of Aviation at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, who welcomed PD as a new addition to FLL’s portfolio of air carriers, strengthening ties between the regions.

We will provide Mr. Gale’s remarks about FLL operations in a separate post specifically focused on the Broward County airport, which, in 2022, served nearly 32 million passengers, making it one of the fastest-recovering airports in the U.S. amid the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

The timing of these route debuts during the busy holiday season gives PD a competitive edge—both inaugural FLL flights were fully booked, as glacial Canadians can now begin to enjoy these daily nonstop routes to balmy South Florida on the airline’s new Embraer E195-E2 aircraft.

Catch Mr. Jackson’s and Mr. Gales’s remarks during the launch ceremony in the video below.

YouTube player

Featured image: Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport CEO Mark Gale, Porter Airlines COO Kevin Jackson, and Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine. Photo: Helwing Villamizar/Airways

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