Porter Airlines has been in the news quite a lot here in Canada in the last few months. At the end of 2022, they took delivery of several brand new Embraer E195-E2 aircraft with the goal of eventually expanding their network from their traditional destinations within the Eastern regions of Canada and the United States (which are served by their existing fleet of Dash-8 turboprop aircraft), to one that stretches all across North America, taking advantage of the Embraer’s longer range and increased capacity, among other things.
Porter Airlines is striving to compete with Canada’s full-service commercial giants, Air Canada and WestJet, offering what can be described as an elevated economy experience. No middle seats, complimentary wine and beer served in glassware, premium snacks, and free wifi all come standard on their new Embraer fleet of jets, with a buy-on-board meal service offered on flights longer than 2.5 hours.
Porter Airlines has recieved a lot of praise over the years from consumers, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and try them for myself.
So, when I was looking to book a round-trip itinerary from Toronto to Vancouver in February, that’s exactly what I did. My flights with Porter cost a total of C$293 round trip, a quite reasonable price for a cross country flight on a full-service airline in Canada. I purchased the standard fare, which included a personal item and one carry-on, but did not include seat selection or checked luggage. Neither of these were really an issue for me however as I usually fly with just a single travel backpack, and didn’t mind where my allocated seat would be. Remember, the Embraer E195-E2 doesn’t have any middle seats!
I arrived at Toronto Pearson International Airport 2 hours before our scheduled 11:15 a.m. departure. We were originally slotted to leave an hour earlier, but Porter had to push the flight back to meet crew rest requirements. Despite a full flight, boarding was quick and painless. I settled into my assigned window seat near the back of the plane, popped in my music, and enjoyed the view of the ramp as we began to taxi out to the runway. Our total flight time was scheduled for just under 5 hours, and would take us over 5 Canadian provinces and 4 timezones, landing at Vancouver International Airport around 1 p.m. Pacific time.
Once in the air, I took notice of a few things. First, I couldn’t believe how quiet the engines were, almost too quiet. Normally, I feel like I have to yell at my seat neighbour in order for them to hear me, but on the Embraer E2, I could practically whisper and be paranoid the entire flight could listen in to what I was saying. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but it was such a great change not needing powerful noise cancelling headphones, being able to clearly communicate with the cabin crew, and not worrying about the moan of the engines keeping me awake should I want to catch some shut eye.
The second thing I noticed was how clean and fresh the cabin was. Obviously being a new aircraft, this was almost a given, but the design was bright, sleek and comfortable. I found the seats fairly spacious, althought the legroom was a bit tight at 30 inches of pitch. I’m 6 feet tall, so if you’re taller than me, you might want to think about paying for an upgraded seat with extra legroom. The tray table folded down and out, slid forward, and had indents for cups on either side.
There are two washrooms on on board, one in the front and one in the back. Both were pretty small, but were kept clean and well stocked for the entire flight.
As I mentioned earlier, drinks and snacks are complimentary on Porter Airlines. On this particular trip to Vancouver, the flight attendents came around the cabin several times throughout the flight, offering a selection of beverages including beer and wine, as well as a generous portion of snacks ranging from banana bread to nuts and cookies. As this flight was over 2.5 hours, they also offered a meal service. Although this usually costs extra, this was provided free of charge to the entire cabin on this trip, presumably as a introductory promotion, and to get some contructive feedback.
For my meal, I had a Salmon Poke Bowl, which was delicious. Definitely something I would happliy pay for in the future. Other options included a Soba Noodle Bowl and a Ham and Brie Croissant. It was so refreshing having a complimentary beverage, snack, and meal service on a domestic flight in Canada, something that’s becoming increasingly rare these days, and is one of the selling points that will allow Porter to stand out in a highly competitive aviation market.
Let’s talk about in flight entertainment.
The free on board wifi was an absolute game changer. I was able to stream full HD YouTube videos, Netflix shows, and even Live TV on my phone for the entire duration of the flight. No buffering and no connectivity issues. With outlets provided at every seat, I didn’t have to worry about running out of battery either. Porter also offers a decent selection of movies and shows through their online streaming service, although this isn’t something I personally used on this flight. It’s quite impressive just how well the wifi worked, considering everyone on the plane was no doubt trying it out for themselves. You do have to put up with the occasional advertisment in order to continue using the wifi, but if you are a member of Porter’s frequent flyer program VIPorter, you get the wifi access ad free for the duration of the flight.
Unfortunately, there was cloud cover most of the way to over Vancouver on this flight, so I was glad to have the wifi to cure me of bordom, and to distract me from the disappointment of not being able to see the snowy peaks of the rocky mountains. Here are some views out my window from the brief moments of clear sky I was able to capture:
Overall, I was incredibly pleased with my experience flying with Porter Airlines on their new Embraer E195-E2 jets from Toronto to Vancouver. The competitive pricing, free wifi, complimentary food and drink, lack of middle seat, a comfortable and quiet cabin, and friendly crew made for a really enjoyable flying experience. I would choose to fly Porter again every single day of the week. I personally think Air Canada and WestJet have a lot to worry about with Porter’s expansion plans, and hopefully as consumers, this increased competition will do nothing but benefit us here in Canada and raise expectations across the board.
Have you flown with Porter, or thinking about giving them a try? What are your thoughts about what they have to offer compared to the other airlines?
Let me know in the comments below!
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