Porter Airlines expansion plan could hit hurdles

Tue Apr 9, 2013 5:21pm EDT
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By Susan Taylor

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian regional carrier Porter Airlines is expected to announce an order for 12 of Bombardier Inc's (BBDb.TO: Quote) new CSeries jets on Wednesday, a likely challenge to flight restrictions at its Toronto Island airport base.

The privately held airline, which says it will announce "expansion plans" at a morning press conference, could create a third cross-country carrier with the deal, ratcheting up competition for Canada's No. 1 and No. 2 airlines, Air Canada ACb.TO and WestJet Airlines Ltd (WJA.TO: Quote).

Buying CSeries jets would give Porter the opportunity for longer flights and extra routes. But it raises questions about its ability to operate the CSeries from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, a short ferry ride from the city's core.

Under an agreement between the city of Toronto, the federal government and the Toronto Harbour Commission, almost no jet-powered aircraft, which would include the CSeries, may use the Island Airport. (here)

Porter Airlines did not respond to requests for comment on a CSeries order, which The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed sources. Bombardier spokesman Marc Duchesne said the Montreal-based company would not comment on "industry speculation."

But a long-term Porter employee said a mockup of the jet was being assembled in a Porter hangar, and a CSeries announcement was highly likely.

Bombardier in December announced a letter of intent with an "unidentified customer" for 12 CSeries worth $870 million at list prices, with options for another 18 aircraft that would swell the deal value to $2.08 billion.

"It will double the size of the company, peoplewise, and just opens up the continental North American markets," the Porter source, who was not authorized to speak to the media and who asked not to be named, said of the order.   Continued...

Porter Airline promotional items and souvenirs are seen during a welcoming ceremony at Dulles International Airport in Virginia April 16, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cameron