Porter Airlines Inc. will run flights between Winnipeg and Ontario this spring to gauge possible future service to the Manitoba capital. The flights will bookend the Liberal Party of Canada convention in Winnipeg late next month.
There will be one round trip between Winnipeg and Toronto and Winnipeg and Ottawa on May 26 and two inbound flights from Toronto, with one outbound flight each to Toronto and Ottawa, on May 29.
A Porter spokesman said the company's first flights into Winnipeg are a one-off for now, but they'll provide a chance to check customer response.
The Winnipeg Airports Authority says the city can support more flights to Southern Ontario because it saw passenger growth of 3 per cent both last year and during the first quarter of 2016.
Porter Airlines operates a fleet of mid-sized planes out of Billy Bishop Airport on Toronto Island and offers regular flights to Montreal and the Ontario cities of Ottawa, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins and Windsor. Tickets are available to the public on Porter's website.A round trip to Toronto will cost $355. Passengers can take one carry-on bag for free, but checked luggage will set them back at least $27.
Other perks, such as early seat selection, also come a la carte. Passengers receive complimentary in-flight service, including beer, wine and snacks, as well as free airport lounge access in Toronto and Ottawa.
Cicero said the company has been looking at Winnipeg for a while.
"We'll look at some operational factors going in and out of [Richardson] airport, which is good to understand when you're evaluating routes for the longer-term plan," he said.
Barry Rempel, president and CEO of the authority, said the number of total seats available out of Winnipeg is down from a year ago, and while carriers are using larger aircraft, the number of landings was down seven per cent in January.
"If we show [Porter] our willingness to work with them, they're going to be far more likely to view us favourably when the next opportunity comes for them to add capacity," he said.