12 July, 2021

Porter Airlines makes surprise order for up to 80 Embraer E195-E2 aircraft........

The Billy Bishop Toronto airport-based Porter Airlines is extending its wings and going further than ever before, if it can raise the funds for a massive purchase of up to 80 Embraer E195-E2 aircraft.

These jets have a transcontinental range and are scheduled to enter into service with the Canadian air carrier in the second half of 2022. However, these jets are not able to operate out of Porter's home base of the city centre Billy Bishop airport, so the carrier is opening up new bases including at Toronto's main international airport Pearson. That means going head to head with the much larger and stronger Air Canada and WestJet. 

The airline says it will fly the Embraer E195-E2s to popular destinations from Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax as well as Toronto Pearson International Airport. The firm hasn't indicated which destinations will be chosen or from which base yet, but says details of the specific routes will be determined in advance of aircraft deliveries.

The Brazillian made jets accommodate between 120 and 146 passengers and Porter says they will feature a passenger-focused cabin design, emphasizing space and comfort which complements Porter’s traditional service offering.  The configuration resembles the airline's De Havilland Dash-8/Bombardier Q400 aircraft with two seats an aisle and then another two seats, so nobody is stuck in the middle of a row. These aircraft will also have large cabin windows, big overhead bins and mood lighting.

If you calculate the deal at Embraer's list prices, the total cost would be around $5.82 billion, but the true price will be considerably less. That's good news for staff at Porter Aircraft Leasing Corp., a sister company of Porter Airlines which is charged with finding finance for the deal. According to the company, funds for the deal are being raised privately from shareholders - existing and possibly new, as well as through aircraft sale-leaseback agreements. Yet business analysts in Toronto have stated the airline doesn't yet have cleared and secured funds to even cover the full deposits for the deal. 

Porter has made a firm commitment for 30 aircraft and has purchase rights options for 50 more airframes. The airline has also negotiated the freedom to convert to the smaller E190-E2s depending upon demand from passengers. 

"With this order for up to 80 of our largest aircraft, the E2 is making a stunning North American debut," said Arjan Meijer, president and CEO, Embraer Commercial Aviation. "As the quietest and most fuel-efficient aircraft in the segment, the E195-E2 also delivers excellent economic performance that shines through."

"We are bringing Porter’s distinct style of service to dozens of new North American cities," said Michael Deluce, president and CEO, Porter Airlines. "We believe that now is the right time to make this investment as the pandemic resets the aviation landscape. Adding a diverse selection of popular business and leisure destinations to our network means that we are better positioned to serve the needs of many more passengers."

The airline isn't turning its back on its existing hub at the downtown Billy Bishop Airport which will remain the airline's core business base and will continue with high-frequency regional service on the Q400 turboprop aircraft. Porter has been in hibernation for many months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The date for the restart of services has been given of 8th September,  but don't hold your breath, 12 or so other restart dates have come and gone without so much as a chock being moved out of place. 

“Our commitment to Billy Bishop Airport is not changing,” said Robert Deluce, founder and executive chairman, Porter Airlines. “Our corporate headquarters at Billy Bishop is being maintained and we will continue serving the same network of regional markets from downtown Toronto. We are moving beyond this existing footprint to welcome more travellers across North America, with an emphasis on providing the sophisticated service that only Porter delivers.”

This isn't the first time Porter has pondered a move into jet aircraft, in 2013 it ordered 30 Bombardier CSeries CS100 including options, although this was on condition that jets be allowed to operate from Billy Bishop. Various legal battles and fights have come and gone, plans made, offered, changed and discarded and still passenger jet flights are not able to operate from the city centre airport.

Sources at Air Canada said the airline's management greeted the news or Porter's order with some surprise and a great deal of scepticism. They also haven't ruled out a return to 'Toronto Island Aiport'!  

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