Porter Airlines Was The Canadian Launch Customer Of The CSeries – Here’s Why It Doesn’t Fly The Plane

Porter Airlines is a niche Canadian carrier based out of Toronto’s Billy Bishop City Airport. The airline only operates Dash 8-400 aircraft. It should have been the Canadian launch customer of the Bombardier CSeries, now the A220. However, the airline never ended up taking any of the planes and continues to fly an all-turboprop fleet. Here’s why.

Porter Airlines CSeries
Porter Airlines was the Canadian launch customer of the Bombardier CSeries. Photo: Bombardier

Porter Airlines placed an order for the CSeries back in 2013

In December 2012, Porter Airlines signed a letter of intent with Bombardier for a number of CSeries aircraft. In April 2013, Porter and Bombardier reached an agreement and turned the letter of intent into a firm order.

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The 2013 order had a conditional purchase agreement for 12 CS100 planes, with options for up to 18 more CS100 jets. This order made Porter Airlines the Canadian launch customer of the CSeries.

At the time, the CSeries was Bombardier’s latest and greatest project. With the new CSeries, the planemaker was looking to make a splash with a larger, efficient, and highly competitive aircraft in the 100-150 seat market.

CSeries Porter
Mike Arcamone, President of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft and Robert Deluce, President and CEO of Porter, celebrating the new aircraft order. Photo: Bombardier

At the time, Robert Deluce, President and CEO of Porter Airlines, stated the following:

“Following an in-depth analysis of existing and re-engined aircraft, we have selected the all-new CS100 airliner for its flexibility and suitability for urban operations, including outstanding fuel efficiency and short airfield performance, as well as reduced sound and emissions. The aircraft fits perfectly into our business plans and growth strategy and we are also proud to be the Canadian launch customer for Bombardier’s CSeries aircraft.  We look forward to expanding our network with an all-Bombardier fleet of CS100 jetliners and Q400 turboprops – promoting greener, quieter flying.”

The order was conditional

The CSeries order was dependent on changes to operating restrictions at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ). YTZ is Porter’s main operating base and is a smaller airport compared to the main Toronto-Pearson (YYZ). Billy Bishop cannot receive jets like the Boeing 737 or even Embraer E175 due to a 1983 Tripartite Agreement that restricts the operation of jets to and from the airport.

Porter Airlines only flies Dash 8 turboprops. Photo: Getty Images

In order to handle the CSeries aircraft, Porter Airlines stated that the runways would have to be lengthened by just under 170 meters (or under 500 feet). This was on top of getting the political backing to amend the agreement to allow the CSeries to fly in and out of Billy Bishop.

Things did not fall in place

Now, in 2020, Porter Airlines still does not have any CSeries (now the Airbus A220s), and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport remains closed to jets. Combined, this leaves Porter Airlines with its fleet of Dash 8-400 aircraft to fly in and out of the airport.

The Dash 8-400s, though a great plane, also have some limitations. They lack the range of the CSeries/A220. Theoretically, if Porter had taken on the CSeries, the carrier could have launched flights out to Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, or further extend its reach into the United States. The Dash 8-400s, cannot do many of those operations.

Porter Airlines Dash 8
While the Dash 8 is excellent for some missions, it has some disadvantages compared to the A220. Photo: Getty Images

Ultimately, for Porter to take on jets, the airline will need to wait for a government that is willing to take up the issue and make the necessary adjustments to Billy Bishop. That move, however, would likely irk Air Canada, which has its base of operations out of Toronto-Pearson. Billy Bishop is closer to downtown Toronto than Toronto-Pearson, which would benefit some business customers.

Do you want Porter Airlines to fly the Airbus A220 (formerly Bombardier CSeries)? Let us know in the comments!