Porter Airlines will offer new non-stop flights to Toronto from St. John's on the Embraer E195-E2 jet. It was brought in on Tuesday, more than a week before the new route is scheduled to start, so staff could get familiar with the aircraft. (Henrike Wilhelm/CBC)
St. John's travellers looking to fly to Toronto Pearson International Airport will have one more option starting in September, when Porter Airlines starts offering its new non-stop route between YYT and Canada's largest airport.
The new route starts on Sep. 7, with one daily non-stop round-trip flight that sees a plane landing in St. John's at 12.45 a.m. and leaving for Toronto Pearson at 8 a.m.
It's another step in Porter's expansion across Canada and North America, according to Porter Airlines spokesperson Brad Cicero.
Part of expanding includes the new 132-seat Embraer E195-E2 jets, which will fly the St. John's route. The airline will have added 50 planes to its fleet by the end of 2024, and more in the future.
"There's many places where we'll be looking to fly them. St. John's is an important market for us," said Cicero.
"This is just the beginning… with one daily flight into Toronto Pearson. And over the years, we'll be looking for more opportunities."
While Porter has been present in St. John's for years, said Cicero, it has been served with a smaller, 78-seat plane.
Along with its new St. John's route, Porter is also starting its service in other Canadian cities in September, like Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg — which can be reached from St. John's with a layover in Toronto.
"We're also going to be in Victoria and other places, really, throughout North America. In the U.S., into the southern Caribbean, Mexico — those are all places that we're exploring in the coming years."
The YYT-YYZ route is one of the most popular flights leaving St. John's, with airlines like Air Canada, WestJet and Lynx Air serving it already.
Demand for the new route has been good, Cicero said.
Brad Cicero of Porter Airlines says 50 new Embraer E195-E2 aircraft will have been added to the airline's fleet by the end of 2024. (Ted Dillon/CBC)
Lisa Bragg, the airport's director of business development and marketing, agrees that the route is an important one.
"Those non-stop routes are great ways to get you where you need to go," said Bragg.
"Toronto is one of the big five hubs in Canada, so it sees a lot of Newfoundlanders coming and going, whether that's their final stop or they have a through flight."
Bragg said while the landscape of air travel has changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic — when the yearly passenger volume was up to 1.5 million — the number of people coming through the St. John's airport is on the rise again.
"Our July this year has seen numbers that are greater than July last year," she said, adding traveller volume is up over 30 per cent from this time last year.
The addition of the new Porter route, she said, is another positive step for the airport.
"Any added capacity is good capacity and moves us in the right direction. So, we're thrilled to have Porter at this non-stop route," said Bragg. "It just offers another great option for passengers."
Lisa Bragg says the airport authority is confident that the new route offered by Porter Airlines is here to stay. (Henrike Wilhelm/CBC)
While flights to Canadian, U.S. and European destinations have been coming and going from St. John's over the past few years, Bragg is confident that the Porter route to Toronto Pearson is here to stay — and hopeful that more positive news will come in the future.
"Any kind of added capacity with an airline comes with a lot of thought behind it. And if there's something I feel very confident about, it's that Porter made this decision with a lot of backing," she said.
"It's a route that we need the market to respond to. We need the market and passengers to look at it as a viable option to Toronto. And the proof will be in how many passengers come and book it."
As for Porter's future plans, Cicero didn't want to give specifics for any destination.
"I expect that almost all the locations that we're serving today, including St. John's, will have more possibilities, whether that's through more routes themselves, more frequency on existing routes or more connecting flights to new destinations."
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