Porter Airlines Inc. is adding two Ontario cities to its regional network, undercutting Air Canada fares on flights to and from Toronto, despite rising fuel costs.
Porter will start its Toronto-Windsor route on April 27 and launch the Toronto-Sault Ste. Marie service on May 4. The four-year-old carrier is mounting an aggressive discount campaign to catch the attention of consumers and fill its new planes.
An Air Canada flight booked Friday afternoon for Toronto-Windsor travel in mid-May cost $225 one-way, before taxes and various fees, compared with Porter's introductory rate of $89 in the lowest fare category. On the Toronto-Sault Ste. Marie route, Air Canada charged $298 one-way for mid-May travel, while Porter is hoping to lure customers with $99 tickets.
Porter president Robert Deluce said the addition of Windsor and Sault Ste. Marie to its route map fulfills a pledge he made in 2006 to fly to those two cities from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. Porter will be taking delivery of four new planes this spring, including two dedicated to the new routes.
Porter, whose base is at the island airport near Toronto's downtown core, will be deploying 70-seat Bombardier Q400 turboprops on the new routes. "The Q400 is fuel-efficient," Mr. Deluce said Friday.
Jazz Air LP, which operates flights to Windsor and Sault Ste. Marie on behalf of Air Canada, flies 37-seat de Havilland aircraft.
Montreal-based Air Canada is emphasizing its greater frequency of flights, Aeroplan loyalty points, targeted seat sales and connections to other flights.
"We're confident that Windsor and Sault Ste. Marie travellers will continue to opt for the convenience of direct access to Canada's largest network of domestic, U.S. and international flights, all under the same roof" at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, Air Canada spokesman John Reber said in a statement. "We compete effectively in every market we serve through pricing, schedule and product offering."
PI Financial Corp. analyst Chris Murray said Toronto-based Porter's marketing campaign for Windsor and Sault Ste. Marie needs to grab the attention of consumers, so the introductory bargains are crucial, even though jet fuel prices are surging.
"Porter is finding new places to point its aircraft, and if it can increase utilization of the planes and increase passenger traffic and loads, that will be great for the airline," Mr. Murray said.
Privately-owned Porter will also beef up service to Sudbury, Moncton, Halifax and St. John's this spring.
Sandra Pupatello, Ontario's Minister of Economic Development and Trade, who represents Windsor West, welcomed Porter's announcement. "Fantastic! Really excited for Windsor. Can't wait to fly," she said Friday on Twitter.
Last month, Ms. Pupatello said Air Canada could easily handle extra international competition if Ottawa were to grant new landing rights at Pearson airport to the United Arab Emirates.
Porter's expansion plans are posing another challenge to Air Canada's strength in the East. Calgary-based WestJet Airlines Ltd. announced this month it will be aggressively wooing business travellers starting in May in the Eastern Triangle battleground of Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.