Monday, March 1, 2010

Flying Porter YTZ-YOW

After spending four jet-lagged days in Toronto, I flew back home to Ottawa in time to watch Canada's men's hockey team win gold. I'll post more about the Olympics shortly, but here I just want to talk about the short flight on Porter Airlines, a relatively new entrant in the market and one that seems to get everything right.

Porter began flying back in 2006, using Toronto's Island Airport, now known as Billy Bishop Toronto City Centre Airport. There was much controversy as those living near the airport do not want to have commercial operations there, but for most Torontonians, the airline is a boon as it offers flights to regional destinations without requiring a trip to Pearson International.

Porter's first route was Toronto-Ottawa, but they have since expanded rapidly and now include Montreal, Halifax, St. John's among other Canadian destinations. For roadtrippers, flights to Boston, Chicago, and New York are also available, and there are plans to expand to several other nearby cities including Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh. It's almost enough to convince me to return to Canada and live downtown!

My experience

I walked from my downtown hotel to the airport on Sunday morning. The airport is located on an island and you need to board a ferry to get there. The ferry, which leaves every 15 minutes, takes all of 2 minutes to reach the airport. Porter recommends arriving just 30 minutes before as the airport is small enough that security lines move quickly, so you can use that guide to figure out which ferry to board.

You can check in at the ferry terminal or at the airport itself. I had already checked in online (faxing my boarding pass to myself at the hotel) so proceeded directly to security. Once through security there is a lounge that provides free wi-fi and internet access. It's quite comfortable and there are enough seats for everyone, but this terminal will be replaced next week with a much larger space.

The CN Tower is visible as we pull back

The planes (all Bombardier Dash 8 Q400's) hold only 70 passengers, so boarding is quick and orderly. We took off on runway 26, which faces west and provides good views of Ontario Place and the CNE grounds, including Ricoh Coliseum. We turned south over the lake and eventually circled around to head northeast for the 56-minute journey to Ottawa.

I was surprised to be given a small snack set for free. This contained a ham sandwich, a couple of cookies and a chocolate. It was fresh and tasty, a change from the usual in-flight meals. Beer and wine are also available at no charge.

The flight itself was uneventful and we arrived at the gate in Ottawa exactly on time. It was an entirely pleasant experience from start to finish and I'm glad to experience a problem-free flight after last week's difficulties.

Snowy landscape

I fly back to Toronto on Sunday, the day that the new terminal opens. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience an airport terminal on its first day of operations, so I'm really looking forward to it and I'll try to add some pictures here.



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