Porter Airlines CEO, Robert Deluce, discusses expansion plans and alliances

The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) is pleased to present this Q&A with Robert Deluce, CEO of fast-growing Canadian regional carrier, Porter Airlines.

CAPA: Porter Airlines has garnered lots of attention lately, what do you put that down to?

Porter has been successful at a time when many other airlines are struggling. While others are cutting routes, reducing staff, deferring or cancelling aircraft orders and other services, Porter remains in growth mode.

The initial 20 aircraft order will be fully delivered by spring 2010; a CAD45-million privately-financed Porter terminal is currently under construction at Toronto City Centre Airport; frequency on existing routes is being increased; a dedicated Porter passenger lounge is being unveiled in Ottawa; and new destinations such as Thunder Bay, Boston and St John’s are opening.

These all contribute to a positive Porter story.

CAPA: How are your core markets performing? Are traffic and yields meeting expectations?

All of our core markets are up over last year.  Demand is strong in the key Ottawa, Montreal, New York and Chicago corridors, with yield also tracking higher.

The new Boston route met our first-month passenger expectations well ahead of the first flight, which is a good sign.

CAPA: What network and fleet developments do you have in store for the remainder of 2009 and early 2010?

We’re accepting six new aircraft between September and November this year, plus the final two from our initial order next spring. That gives Porter a 20-aircraft fleet with the possibility of a follow-on order in the future.

On the network side, Boston began service Sept 14.  It’s our best US start-up route to date in terms of passenger bookings.  We hit our first-month target two weeks prior to the first flight.  We fully expect to be adding flights on this route before the year ends.

St. John’s, Newfoundland, is a new Canadian destination beginning Oct 5.  We’ll have non-stop service to Halifax, plus direct service to Ottawa and Toronto. The Atlantic market has been strong for Porter since started in Halifax in 2007, and bookings for the St John’s market are very good.

We’re also adding frequency on the busy Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax routes, while considering options for further service in other markets.

CAPA: We’ve heard a lot about your Q400 expansion. How is that progressing?

We’re extremely satisfied with the Bombardier Q400.  It has met or exceeded all of our expectations for performance, fuel efficiency, passenger comfort and other measures.

Porter has the distinction of holding the highest dispatch reliability for the Q400 among all operators worldwide two years running.  We’re quite proud of this achievement as a relatively new operator.

The fleet growth is progressing as planned.  We’re accepting six new aircraft between September and November this year, plus the final two from our initial order next spring.  That gives Porter a 20-aircraft fleet with the possibility of a follow-on order in the future.

CAPA: Turning to the broader Canadian market, what are your thoughts about the troubles Air Canada are experiencing?

We’re trying to stay focused on Porter’s business and the growth we have underway over the next year.

There is a new element of competition on the routes Porter flies.  We think this is good for passengers and the industry.

We expect to continue competing with multiple carriers in the future.

CAPA: Do you see Porter evolving from the airline’s current focus?

The long-term plan always envisioned the possibility of Porter growing beyond a regional base.  If the competitive landscape changes, Porter and other domestic carriers, such as WestJet, will move to strengthen the Canadian airline industry with customer-focused, cost-efficient services that provide a competitive industry driving progress and innovation.

CAPA: What does the alliance landscape look like for Porter?

We’re focusing all of our growth plans on the basis of Porter operating as a successful, independent airline.  There are many short-term growth opportunities available to us in the regional market requiring our attention.

Codeshares and interline agreements are something that may make sense in the future.

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