Canada’s COVID-19-related uncertainties are keeping Porter Airlines in limbo, as the Toronto-based carrier has once again pushed back its planned restart date, this time to June 21.
"In recent weeks, there has been open discussion by government officials about easing travel restrictions based on expectations that vaccination programs will be well advanced in the US and Canada by early summer," Porter president and CEO Michael Deluce said.
"We recognize that short-term public health measures have been enhanced recently in certain jurisdictions. At the same time, we are looking ahead to summer and preparing for the possibility of some travel restrictions unwinding. We will begin the process of rebuilding our operations as soon as conditions allow based on government decisions.”
Porter, which bases its operations at Toronto’s Billy Bishop City Airport (YTZ), parked its fleet on March 21, 2020 as Canada began to restrict air travel amid rising concerns about COVID-19. Those restrictions remain largely in place, though the country has added some testing and quarantine protocols. Porter most recently was targeting May 19 for its restart.
The airline served 19 cities—15 in Canada and four in the US. It plans to restore as much of its old network as possible using as many of its 29 De Havilland Dash 8-400s as it can. It laid off 90% of its 1,500 staff to help get it through the service pause.
Porter’s post-pandemic ramp-up could face additional headwinds thanks to a planned new airline based at Bishop, Toronto’s downtown airport served by regional operators. A Boston-based charter has unveiled plans to base a scheduled operator out of the airport, with a fall 2021 start-up timeframe. Connect Aviation would operate Dash 8-400s and focus on transborder business travel—one of Porter’s niches.
Photo credit: Joe Pries