Canada's Porter Airlines plots big expansion with Bombardier jets

Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:19pm EDT
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By Susan Taylor and Solarina Ho

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian regional carrier Porter Airlines laid out a bold expansion plan on Wednesday built around a conditional order worth up to $2.08 billion for Bombardier Inc's (BBDb.TO: Quote) new CSeries jets that would more than double its fleet.

But the push for new markets and bigger planes comes with a big "if" for Porter.

The privately held airline must first get the rules at its Toronto hub, which prohibit the operation of commercial jets, changed. Porter currently flies a fleet of 26 Bombardier Q400 turboprop planes.

"We believe it is time to spread our wings," Porter Chief Executive Robert Deluce told a press conference at its hub, the small Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, which is a short ferry ride from downtown Toronto. "We selected, we announced, we're now going forward seeking the approval."

A 1983 agreement between the city, the federal government and the Toronto Port Authority prohibits both the operation of commercial jets at the airport on Toronto Island and the expansion of the airport's runway, which is too short for a CSeries jet.

Changing those rules is sure to spark controversy and fierce opposition over noise and pollution levels.

Deluce said he hopes an agreement will come in six months, including a pledge to punch the runway out by what Porter says is a "modest" 168 meters (551 feet) in each direction into Lake Ontario.

Founded in 2006, Porter currently flies its turboprops to 19 cities in Eastern Canada and the United States, with routes restricted by the Q400's range of about 1,000 miles.   Continued...

A Porter Airlines Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft is seen in Toronto in this file photo taken February 23, 2009. Canadian carrier Porter Airlines will announce on Wednesday that it plans to add new Bombardier Inc CS100 jets to its fleet and expand the destinations it serves across North America, a Porter source told Reuters, citing a memo from the carrier's chief executive. REUTERS/Mark Blinch