Porter Airlines – An Underdog Story

Porter Airlines recently carried their 5 millionth passenger and celebrated their 5th birthday within a couple of days.  Both accomplishments are significant in the cutthroat airline industry where the barriers to entry are high, margins are low, and competition is fierce.

They set the tone early when they chose a raccoon as their mascot – Porter intended to be persistent, tenacious, and survive in spite of adversity… a daring, different kind of airline.  Raccoons aren’t always liked, but they do have some strong qualities that help them to thrive.

Porter began in October 2006 with just 2 Q400 Bombardier turboprop planes flying Toronto island aiprort to Montreal and Ottawa, and they now have 24 planes servicing 16 destinations, with more of both to come.   They even offer service to tough to get to seasonal destinations like Myrtle Beach, Mont Tremblant, and Burlington Vermont.  Porter is now the 3rd largest airline in Canada next to Air Canada and West Jet.

The airline could have easily abandoned plans to set up shop on the Toronto Island Airport when David Miller killed the proposed bridge in 2003.  They moved forward with a free shuttle and ferry service from Union Station and haven’t looked back.

What else has contributed to their success?

  • Record high customer satisfaction rates due to amenities such as free beverages (including alcohol!), more leg room, wifi, and free lounge access for all passengers
  • By far the lowest cost structure in the industry, with a breakeven load factor of 50%, compared to 70% or more for all major competitors.
  • An unwavering focus on Speed, Convenience, and Service.

If you haven’t tried Porter yet, I’m thinking that’s only a matter of time… and when you do, you likely won’t be disappointed.

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