As the North American economy slowly begins its return to normal with the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines, Porter Airlines has announced it is preparing to launch a major expansion of its fleet and services worth potentially up to US$5.8 billion.
“We believe that now is the right time to make this investment as the pandemic resets the aviation landscape,” Michael Deluce, the president and CEO of Porter Airlines, said in a statement Monday morning.
“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 15-year-old airline, which currently operates a fleet of 29 Dash 8-400 turboprop aircraft, is headquartered at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport in downtown Toronto, and services select cities and regions such as Ottawa, Muskoka, Thunder Bay, Montreal, Fredericton, Halifax, St. John’s, Washington, New York, Boston and Chicago.
However, the airline announced on Monday a sister company, Porter Aircraft Leasing Corp., is buying 30 Embraer E195-E2 jet aircraft with an option to buy up to 50 more (or convert to a smaller model of the aircraft). Each jet will be capable of carrying between 120 and 146 passengers.
Billed as a state-of-the-art transcontinental aircraft, the use of the Embraer aircraft will allow Porter Airlines to extend its reach beyond its network due to the limitations surrounding its current fleet.
With deliveries of the new jets set to begin in the second half of 2022, the statement said the airline will begin unveiling its new routes sometime in 2022. The statement said funding for the large-scale expansion will come from private shareholders and through aircraft sale-leaseback agreements.
Company officials said the airline will be offering new services out of four airports: Toronto Pearson International Airport, Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, Ottawa International Airport and Halifax Stanfield International Airport.
In a map posted on its website Monday morning, Porter Airlines listed several potential future destinations across Canada, the United States, and the Caribbean, including Vancouver, Los Angeles, Miami and Nassau. The statement also said Mexico could be a potential destination as well.
News of the expansion came nearly two weeks after the company announced it secured $270.5 million in loans from the federal government as it seeks to recover from losses incurred during the pandemic.
After temporarily shutting down and announcing several tentative reopening dates only to be repeatedly rescheduled, service out of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is slated to resume on Sept. 8