Porter's expansion announcement a 'gutsy move,' expert says
Published Thursday, April 11, 2013 8:20AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 11, 2013 3:18PM EDT
Porter Airlines' plans to purchase 12 new jets and expand service across North America is a "gutsy move," given the fact the company does not yet have the approvals it needs to make the expansion at its downtown airport, one airline expert says.
Porter President and CEO Robert Deluce made the announcement Wednesday at the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, unveiling a life-sized model of the cabin of the new Bombardier CS100 jet. Porter has inked a deal for 12 of the aircraft, with an additional 18 to be purchased at a later date.
Deluce said the new jets will allow the regional airline, which currently relies on Bombardier’s Q400 turboprop plane, to expand its reach to destinations across North America including Calgary, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Miami and possibly even the Caribbean, making Porter a viable competitor against Air Canada and West Jet.
Airline industry expert Karl Moore points out that Porter would have to expand the Billy Bishop runway into Lake Ontario by 168 metres at each end in order to allow the jets to take off and land.
However, Porter doesn't yet have approval to expand the runway or to fly jets out of the urban airport. An agreement currently restricts jet traffic.
"It sounds like the feds are saying 'we'll wait to see what the city says' and the Port Authority is waiting to see what the city says largely, so it's a gutsy move by Bob Deluce to go for this," Moore told CTV's Canada AM.
He added that the addition of another Canadian carrier to the market would boost competition and in the end, benefit air travellers in this country.
All three signatories to the airport's tripartite agreement would need to sign off on an expansion of the island airport.
Some have speculated that Deluce had quietly received assurances that the approvals would be granted, but a number of Toronto city councillors said they had not been consulted.
"Businesses can on occasion act in a way that is more, we're going to do it and see what happens, and this may be one of those occasions where if they'd gone to all the parties involved, it clearly would have leaked out ahead of time," Moore said.
"I hadn't heard and most of us had not heard a whiff of this, so they kept it pretty close to their chest and we'll see whether that makes sense or not."
Opposition related to the island airport has always centred around the noise generated by planes flying in and out of the facility, and how that would affect nearby condo-dwellers and Toronto Island residents.
Porter says the CS100s, which are still in the testing phase, will be as quiet as the Q400s.
"It is the quietest commercial jet in production. This whisper jet is up to four times quieter than existing aircraft and is comparably quiet to our existing Q400s," Deluce said at Wednesday's news conference
Moore agreed, saying the new plane is expected to be the quietest commercial jet in production when released.
He called the introduction of the C-series planes a "bet your company move" for Bombardier, which spent more than $3 billion developing the aircraft.
Porter’s decision to choose the jet to expand its fleet is good news for the Montreal-based aerospace company, Moore said.